Most efforts to combat childhood obesity focus on children and adolescents – but perhaps those efforts should start much earlier, even before conception, researchers say.
With 10% of U.S. preschoolers obese and another 10% overweight, obesity clearly begins early – in fact, before pregnancy, the researchers say in the June issue of Childhood Obesity. Markers for later heart disease appear in 3-year-olds, they say.
A multidisciplinary approach to break the cycle of obesity moving from generation to generation is needed, say the researchers, six experts from institutions across the country who conducted a review of more than 1,000 studies and discussions about efforts underway.
“High-risk adolescent girls become high-risk mothers who have high-risk infants, who in turn become high-risk children and adolescents,” the researchers write.
To break the cycle, the researchers propose two ideas: First, intervene before, during and after pregnancy and with very young children. Second, use a “systems” approach that would combine efforts in various settings and account for behavior and environmental factors.