Obesity is a huge health issue. It is a treatable condition, but it can cause permanent damage and early death. Sadly, obesity rates are rising among children as well as adults. Researchers at the University of Queensland have now developed a method, which helps predict the risk that a 12 month old child is going to suffer from future childhood obesity.
Of course, obesity is mostly a lifestyle disease. However, genetic factors are also at play. Some people are predisposed to be more dependent on food. Metabolism rates are also different. You definitely can manage your weight, but for some people it is more difficult than others. Childhood obesity is one of those factors that make losing weight later in life a lot more difficult.
Australian scientists have now developed and validated the i-PATHWAY model, which takes simple factors into account to predict future childhood obesity. Factors included in this model can be gathered during routine doctor visits when the baby is just 12 months of age – weight change during the first year of life, mother’s and father’s pre-pregnancy height and weight, mother’s smoking habits during pregnancy, baby’s sleep patterns and sex. This model measures the risk of childhood obesity so that it could be prevented in further steps.
Dr Oliver Canfell, one of the scientists behind the i-PATHWAY model, explained: “We chose to predict childhood obesity at age eight or nine years because the older the child with obesity, the more likely they are to live with obesity as an adult. This is critical to help prevent obesity in the long-term.”
i-PATHWAY model was created after analysing almost 2000 children followed from birth to the age of nine. This helped scientists to identify the strongest predictors of childhood obesity that are evident at the age of 12 months old. Scientists are confident that childhood obesity can be prevented if the risks are known. They hope that their model can help doctors and nurses inform parents that something needs to be done to avoid problems in the coming years.
Now scientists want to test their model in different groups to confirm its accuracy and effectiveness. They will also develop some obesity prevention measures that could compliment the i-PATHWAY model. The research in childhood obesity will continue because every child has the right to grow up healthy without preventable issues related to the body weight.
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. It is estimated that 8 million children under the age of 5 are overweight or obese. Obesity is associated with all kinds of health problems – from heart disease and diabetes to neurological conditions and early death. However, obesity is completely preventable, especially if it is addressed early in life.
Source: University of Queensland