Risk for obesity starts as early as 5 years old according to new study in New England Journal of Medicine
Do We Need to Start Fighting Childhood Obesity in Three-Year-Olds?
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Jan. 29 2014 7:43 PM

New Study Shows Why It's Bad to Be Overweight in Kindergarten

New research suggests the risk for obesity starts as early as age 5.

Photo by Jana Birchum/Getty Images

New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds the risk for obesity starts as early as age 5. Overweight kindergartners were four times as likely as normal-weight children to become obese, researchers said. Here's the New York Times with the details:

Some obese or overweight kindergartners lost their excess weight, and some children of normal weight got fat over the years. But every year, the chances that a child would slide into or out of being overweight or obese diminished. By age 11, there were few additional changes: Those who were obese or overweight stayed that way, and those whose weights were normal did not become fat. ...
Race, ethnicity and family income mattered in younger children, but by the time the overweight children were 5 years old, those factors no longer affected their risk of being fat in later years.

The study, conducted by researchers at Emory University, tracked over 7,000 children as they moved from kindergarten to eighth grade. Most efforts to reduce childhood obesity focus on school-aged children – improving school meals, teaching nutrition, and making time for physical activity. Yet the new findings suggests these interventions may be too late and too broad.

“It is almost as if, if you can make it to kindergarten without the weight, your chances are immensely better,” Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, the vice president of the Emory Global Health Institute in Atlanta, told the New York Times.

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