(RxWiki News) More and more has been learned about child obesity in the past few decades. What if we could put all the known risk factors together to get a sense of a child's overall risk of being overweight? We can.
A recent study has led to an "obesity calculator" that can help doctors and parents know a child's risk of obesity.
It takes factors such as birth weight and demographic factors and provides an estimate of a child's risk of becoming overweight.
"Talk to your pediatrician about preventing child obesity."
The study, led by Philippe Froguel, MD, PhD from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, relies on data from a study of 4,000 Finnish children who were followed from 1986 onward.
Although they initially looked for ways to genetically determine an obesity risk, the researchers found that other factors offered more accuracy in predicting risk.
The factors the calculator uses are the baby's birth weight, the body mass index (a ration of height to weight) of both parents, the number of people in the household, the mother's work status and whether the mother smoked while pregnant.
The calculator can be found at the links below in the "Citations" section. It is free to use.
"All the data we use are well-known risk factors for childhood obesity, but this is the first time they have been used together to predict from the time of birth the likelihood of a child becoming obese," said Dr. Froguel in a release about the study.
The study found that a significant majority of children who are obese fall into the top fifth of risk using the calculator.
The 20 percent in the highest risk group end up comprising 80 percent of all obese children, according to the study.
Once families are aware of whether a child is at a higher risk for becoming obese, they can seek the help of a pediatrician, nutritionist or dietician to ensure the child develops healthy habits early on and to promptly intervene when assessing any medical or health conditions.
"Once a young child becomes obese, it's difficult for them to lose weight, so prevention is the best strategy, and it has to begin as early as possible," Froguel said in the release. "Teaching parents about the dangers of over-feeding and bad nutritional habits at a young age would be much more effective."
The study was published November 28 in the journal PLOS ONE. Information was unavailable regarding funding and disclosures.