Can excessive weight gain in toddlers predict weight problems in later life?

Childood obesity
Photo curtsey of Nick Kulas.

There is an interesting study on the importance of weight management in the first 5 years of age (1) that is being discussed by the media more than I would have expected. I say this because we had already been tipped from other studies that obesity in the early years can be a good predictor of adolescence or adulthood weight problems. In some cases even prenatal factors have been identified such as maternal weight, BMI and nutrition during pregnancy. However it is good that the public (especially the less health conscious public) grasps the message and it is always great to get further confirmation from a new study especially from a longitudinal one! What is unfortunate is that even though the study is a longitudinal one (a far more realistic and solid way to do these kind of studies which is unfortunately rarely employed due to time and cost constraints), they have used BMI as a measure of obesity. BMI provides a rough indication of the weight to height ratio, but it does not take into account muscle mass or frame size. My wife is in deed all too familiar with the false positives caused by using BMI alone. Whilst working for the NHS she visited many children that had been flagged as overweight only to realize they were either particularly muscular or simply had a heavier frame than most. In a study setting with a good sample having a few false positives is unlikely to skew the results. But in case you have a child that erroneously falls in the overweight category please take the other factors into account before panicking. (here is a link to a BMI calculator )

 Weight management is not the goal, but merely the monitoring of a consequence. The main focus is nutrient rich foods! TWEET THIS!

For those that are more tuned into health I feel I should make sure we all realize that weight management is not the main goal, but merely the monitoring of a consequence. If you attended one of our talks or webinars you will know how we value the importance of concentrating on nutrient-dense foods. This will automatically shift the focus away from calorie-dense food and as a consequence keeps weight in check. It is indeed quite short-sighted to only consider the caloric aspect of a diet and it can be plain dangerous when children are involved. In deed as Joanne Ikeda, nutritionist and co-founder of the UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health, says a calorie-restricted diet could place a child at risk of stunted growth (2). However lets not forget to consider the flip side of this. A calorie appropriate diet could still prevent a child from reaching his/her full growth potential. The main focus should be: nutrient rich foods!

In the next post we will look at postnatal and then also prenatal factors that have been found to be associated with obesity in later life

If you would like more information on infant and toddler nutrition  contact us about one of our nutrition talks (live or online)


You can find the original study: Incidence of Childhood Obesity in the United States here:

Here is one of the better articles I found that discussed the new study:

and here is an audio file of the same article above:

here is a short mention of the study in the New Scientist:


1)   Cunningham, Michael R. Kramer, Ph.D., and K.M. Venkat Narayan, M.D. Incidence of Childhood Obesity in the United States N Engl J Med 2014; 370:403-41

2)   Rob Stein. January 29, 2014. Adult Obesity May Have Origins Way Back In Kindergarten. Published by


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