Childhood Weight Drastically Affects Chance of Adolescent Obesity

JANUARY 10, 2020
Samara Rosenfeld
Satomi Yoshida, PhD

Satomi Yoshida, PhD

Being overweight or obese at 3 years old presents a higher risk of the same physical trait at 15 years old, according to new findings.

Investigators based in Japan studied more than 1500 mother-child pairs and found that being overweight or obese at 3 years old was associated with more than four-times higher risk at 15 years old.

The team, led by first author Satomi Yoshida, PhD, from the pharmacoepidemiology department at Kyoto University, sought to learn the correlation between obesity or excess weight at 3 years old and 15 years old. The investigators also examined whether there was an association between maternal prepregnancy excess weight or obesity and the same trait in children at 15 years old.

Youshida and the team used childhood and school health check-up data collected by the Health, Clinic, and Education Information Evaluation Institute. The study population included children born in Hofu City between April 2000 and March 2003 who received a school health check-up at 15 years old.

In Japan, health check-ups are conducted from birth to age 3 years old to measure growth for the age of the child. During the visits, healthcare professionals record body weight, height, and physical and mental development data. School health check-ups occur annually for 15-year-old students.

Maternal pregnancy data were collected by self-administered questionnaires during early pregnancy. The data included maternal age at birth, height, and body weight, along with other demographic and lifestyle factors.

A body mass index (BMI) > 17.85 for boys and > 17.64 for girls at 3 years old was considered overweight. Boys with a BMI > 23.28 and girls with a BMI > 23.89 were considered as overweight or obese adolescents. A BMI of at least 25 was considered overweight or obese in mothers.

Among 15-year-old adolescents, 3082 had a school health check-up. In more than half (51.3%) of the children who were followed-up from birth to age 15 years old, the mothers’ pregnancy information was available. Overall, 167 (10.6%) were overweight or obese at age 15 years old—86 (10.9%) boys and 81 (10.2%) girls. More girls than boys (59.1% vs 40.9%) were overweight or obese compared with children who were not overweight or obese at 3 years old.

Obesity or being overweight at 3 years old was associated with an increased risk of the same physical trait at 15 years old (aOR 4.26; 95% CI, 2.51–7.25; P <.001). This was seen among girls (aOR 6.48; 95% CI, 3.25–12.9; P <.001) but not boys (aOR 2.29; 95% CI, 0.92–5.69; P <.075). 

Children who were born at a low birth weight compared to those in the normal weight group had higher percentages of being overweight or obese at 15 years old (14% vs 10.7%). Likewise, those who were obese or overweight at 3 years old had higher percentages of being overweight or obese than the normal weight group (33.7% vs 9.2%).

Overall, an analysis of 1369 individuals revealed no association between (aOR .97; 95% CI, .92–1.0; P = .311) or BMI, per each 1 kg/m2 increase, at age 18 months (aOR 0.87; 95% CI, .69–1.11, P = .273). BMI at 3 years old was associated with higher risk of obesity or being overweight at 15 years old (aOR 2.15; 95% CI, 1.71–2.70, P <.001).

Prepregnancy obesity or being overweight was associated with being overweight or obese at 15 years old (aOR 2.46; 95% CI, 1.41–4.30, P = .002). Again, this was only observed among girls (aOR 2.89; 95% CI, 1.30–6.41, P = .009) and not boys (aOR 2.18; 95% CI, 0.98–4.88; P = .057).

Maternal prepregnancy BMI was also associated with being overweight or obese at 15 years old (aOR 1.17; 95% CI, 1.10–1.24, P <.001)

There was a higher percentage of mothers older than 35 years old in overweight or obese children (9.7%) than not (7.4%). If a mother smoked during pregnancy, there was also a higher percentage of overweight or obese children (19.8%) than not overweight or obese (9.9%).

Being overweight or obese at 3 years old was associated with the same physical traits at 15 years old. What’s more, prepregnancy obesity or excess weight was a strong predictor in the same traits for 15-year-old girls. There was no statistically significant link between birth weight and being overweight or obese at 15 years old.

Early intervention for children who are overweight or obese could help prevent obesity in adolescence, the investigators concluded. Modified lifestyle factors and eating habits could be beneficial.

The study, “Association of maternal prepregnancy weight and early childhood weight with obesity in adolescence: A population-based longitudinal cohort study in Japan,” was published online in the journal Pediatric Obesity.  

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