Saturday, October 4, 2014


Obesity has assumed epidemic proportions in many countries and very little is known about the actual cause(s) for this phenomenon, noticed especially in industrial nations with high per capita income. Of course there are many theories and assumptions, all of which are not true 100%. But one fundamental principle of over weight is that if one strictly follows the calorie balance vis-a-vis food intake and physical activity, obesity can be most probably avoided. Logically obesity, being a recent development, has some thing to do with the modern life style practiced by people in wealthy countries where sedentary living and too much calorie intake are common. Still there is a flip side to this story as there are people who do not put on weight, no matter what they eat or how much they eat. Some experts attribute the tendency to gain weight to genetic factors and the living environment can make it worse if proper eating discipline is not observed. Now comes a remarkable study which says that in many cases obesity onset can be predicted at early child hood depending on the food intake and childhood weight with those children with high body weights or BMI invariable becoming obese adults over the years. Here is a take on these startling findings.

"For many obese adults, the die was cast by the time they were 5 years old. A major new study of more than 7,000 children has found that a third of children who were overweight in kindergarten were obese by eighth grade. And almost every child who was very obese remained that way. Some obese or overweight kindergartners lost their excess weight, and some children of normal weight got fat over the years. But every year, the chances that a child would slide into or out of being overweight or obese diminished. By age 11, there were few additional changes: Those who were obese or overweight stayed that way, and those whose weight was normal did not become fat. "The main message is that obesity is established very early in life, and that it basically tracks through adolescence to adulthood," said Ruth Loos, a professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who was not involved in the study. These results, surprising to many experts, arose from a rare study that tracked children's body weight for years, from kindergarten through eighth grade. Experts say they may reshape approaches to combating the nation's obesity epidemic, suggesting that efforts must start much earlier and focus more on the children at greatest risk."

One of the amazing facts that emerged during the above study was that babies born with high weight are likely to become obese during their adulthood. This calls for a whole change in the life style of expectant mothers to moderate on their food intake to ensure that child is borne with less birth weight, possibly around 3 kg. Also to be frowned upon is the tendency of mothers of babies to feed them with rich foods too frequently in their anxiety to see them grow fast and healthy. Now that a correlation has been established between birth weight, early childhood weight and over weight, a whole new paradigm has to emerge to advice parents regarding the importance of quality and quantity of food fed to their kids during early childhood. Indian women were always enamored by the picture of the iconic bouncy and chubby "Amul Baby" which was promoted by the Amul baby food manufacturers till a few years ago. A thin or lean but healthy baby probably has a better chance to avoid the obesity "trap" when it grows into an adult.


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