ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – A new study has reportedly found a way to predict obesity at birth.

Researchers at the School of Public Health at Imperial College in London have developed a formula they refer to as the obesity risk calculator, in the hopes of identifying those children more prone to being obese before they reach school age.

“Many believe the critical time for the development of obesity is between ages zero and five—before kids go to school,” Philippe Froguel, the study’s lead author, told Time magazine. “Each year after age five is too late, and we wanted to find a way to predict the likelihood at birth.”

He added, “There are many non-genetic factors that are easy to analyze and are costless.”

Researchers involved with the study poured over data collected by the 1986 Northern Finland Birth Cohort, which tracked a reported 4,000 people born that year.

Factors such as birth weight, number of people living with the newborn child, the mother’s professional and smoking status and the body mass indexes of the parents were all documented by the birth cohort due to their believed influence on the future obesity of the child, Time magazine learned.

Using these factors, researchers in London were reportedly able to accurately predict obesity in cohorts in the United States and Italy, as well as in the Finnish cohort on which the study was based.

The study’s authors hope that having such an equation in place to educate parents about the obesity risk of their children could help to curb the trend in coming years.

“Parents of newborns are particularly sensitive to information given about their child’s health,” the study noted, according to the magazine. “Once informed of their baby’s increased risk for obesity, they might be more receptive to routine advice provided from birth during the first two years of life within population-wide prevention: breast-feeding, feeding on demand, weaning no earlier than the sixth month with recommended meal patterns and food portions, avoiding of television and sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Froguel added, ““From my work in hospitals, I’ve been shocked by the lack of knowledge about nutrition, especially from young mothers … new parents may think giving food to the child is the only way to get them to stop crying, but if you continue to do that the child could be overweight.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta noted that childhood obesity could also lead to obesity later in life.

Obese children are more likely to become obese adults,” the official CDC website states. “Adult obesity is associated with a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.”

The site added, “If children are overweight, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.”

The study was reportedly published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.


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