A recent study looked for risk factors that influence a child’s likelihood of being overweight by age 3.  The study looked at over 13,000 children aged 6-12 months in the UK, and followed their data to age 3 to determine whether any factors could predict the risk of being overweight at age 3. 
Out of 33 different possibilities studied, they found seven characteristics that were associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity at age 3.
The 7 factors that are associated with a higher risk of a 3-year-old being overweight are:
  • Mother smoking in pregnancy
    increased the rate of the 3-year-old being overweight by 33%
  • Children who are not
    breastfed were 25% more likely to be overweight at age 3 than those who were ever breastfed
  • Mom being overweight before
  • Dad having obesity
  • A higher weight at birth
  • Gender: girls were more
    likely to be overweight at age 3 than boys
  • Early weight gain: babies
    who rapidly gained weight during their first year were 4 times more likely to
    be overweight at age 3 than those who grew at an average weight


So why do we care if a 3 year old is overweight?  Doesn’t the weight just balance out over time?  While many kids will go through different phases of body fat storage as they grow, it is a fact that overweight in childhood does increase the risk of that individual being overweight in adulthood.  So while it would not be appropriate to get carried away with intense weight management of a three year old, what we can learn from this study is that there are things we can look at in our own lives that could be modified to improve the health of our offspring. 
While some of the above risk factors are modifiable (eg smoking), others are not.  Knowing that there are many benefits to breastfeeding, most mothers these days do choose or try to breastfeed, but it isn’t always successful.  Parental obesity has been shown to be associated with weight struggles in their offspring, both in childhood and as those children become adults, so it is important to reach out for help with a weight struggle not only for a person’s own health and well being, but also for that of their kids.  
Dr Sue Pedersen www.drsue.ca © 2013 drsuetalks@gmail.com

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