Will A New Formula For Predicting Childhood Obesity Change The Habits We Teach Our Children?

I think I would approach my child’s diet in a very different way if I thought he was predisposed to experience childhood obesity. A simple formula can predict the likelihood of a baby becoming obese in childhood and could be an effective tool for parents.

My child eats everything. We are lucky that way. He loves fruit, vegetables, meat – just about everything we put on his plate. Of course his tastes vary from day to day and some days he is a little more finicky than others, but on average he is a great eater.

He is a clone of his father – tall and lanky already at only two years old. His father has the metabolism of a hummingbird and is one of those people who is made of muscle and just cannot put on weight. I, on the other hand, am not so lucky. I have been struggling with my weight pretty much my whole life. I always assumed since he resembled his father, his metabolism would follow in his footsteps, too. But according to a new study, the way a child’s body takes shape is not always dependent on genetics. From an analysis of the study in PLOS ONE:

The researchers developed the formula using data from a study set up in 1986 following 4000 children born in Finland. They initially investigated whether obesity risk could be assessed using genetic profiles, but the test they developed based on common genetic variations failed to make accurate predictions. Instead, they discovered that non-genetic information readily available at the time of birth was enough to predict which children would become obese. The formula proved accurate not just in the Finnish cohort, but in further tests using data from studies in Italy and the US.

The formula is available in an online calculator. It uses factors including the child’s birth weight, the body mass index of the parents, the mother’s professional status and whether she smoked during pregnancy to estimate the child’s obesity risk.

I’m happy to use any tool at my disposal that will help me raise a healthier child. If the formula showed that my toddler was at high risk for childhood obesity, it may affect the decisions I make about his diet and the habits I help him develop. Of course, I will teach him healthy habits regardless, but it helps to know that just because he is built exactly like his father – doesn’t mean his metabolism is going follow suit.

(photo: Kylie Walls/ Shutterstock.com)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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    • CW

      I have read that the mother’s weight has a higher correlation with the child’s weight than the father’s does, sorry!

    • Blooming_ babies

      Did the calculator… Leaves a lot to be desired but it does make me think.

    • Melody

      Guess I’d better lose some weight and gain some job skills because according to this my kids are screwed right now. Although I would like to mention that my scrawny (for lack of a better word) four year old was told at this year’s physical that his BMI puts him at overweight. My pediatrician looked puzzled and checked it again several times because he said he couldn’t believe it. My husband (who is also very slender) has a BMI of overweight or obese too. I think they just have heavy frames or something so BMI calculators aren’t very accurate. Body fat calculators are much more reliable.

    • Vikky

      I’m confused: is the “maternal BMI” calculated from how much the mother weighed before she was pregnant, at the time of birth, or just after she gave birth?