Written by Loren Grush
Childhood obesity has been on the rise in the United States, a trend that is putting many children at risk for a multitude of health problems – from cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure to early type 2 diabetes.
For parents looking to keep their child healthy and physically fit as they grow up, a better understanding of their child’s propensity towards obesity could be an essential tool in helping to keep off the pounds.
But how are parents supposed to know the likelihood their child will be overweight?
A new, simple formula could be the key. Available as an online calculator, an equation developed by researchers at the Imperial College London can strongly predict a baby’s probability of becoming obese during childhood.
Utilizing simple data such as the child’s birth weight, number of household members and the mother and father’s body mass indexes (BMI), the calculator provides a percentage of predicted probability of obesity. The mother’s occupation and her gestational smoking habits are also taken into consideration.
Take a hypothetical couple with BMIs of 25, the mother a non-smoker working a professional job, both living in a two-person household: If they just gave birth to a nearly 8-pound baby, the likelihood of their child being overweight or obese is only 2.05 percent. However, once you change the mother’s occupation from a professional job to unskilled or unemployed, the child’s likelihood jumps up to 14.25 percent.
Environmental and lifestyle factors
To develop the formula, researchers analyzed data from an ongoing 1986 study following 4,000 children born in Finland over the course of their lives. They originally examined a variety of different factors that could potentially explain the population’s obesity – from genetic variants to environmental and lifestyle factors.