1 in 5 kids carry too much weight before kindergarten
June 23rd, 2011
04:57 PM ET

1 in 5 kids carry too much weight before kindergarten

Childhood obesity prevention efforts should start early – like after birth, says the Institute of Medicine.

Almost 10% of infants and toddlers under the age of 2 carry extra weight.  And one in five children between ages of 2 and 5 are overweight or obese.

“What happens early in children's development has an impact on later health,” said Leann Birch, who served as the chair on the IOM committee.  “Rapid weight gain and obesity early can increase risk of obesity and chronic disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes later in life.”

To address early childhood obesity, the Institute of Medicine, an independent, nonprofit organization that gives advice to decision makers and the public, gave advice on kids’ nutrition, physical activity and sedentary behaviors.

The report's target audience was policymakers and stakeholders including health or child care providers, although many of its points are applicable to parents.

Here are some of its recommendations:

  • During every pediatric visit, a health care professional should monitor the child’s weight and height.  They should take into consideration whether the kids are above the 85th percentile curves, the kids’ weight gain and parents' weight status.
  • Toddlers and preschool children should be encouraged to be physically active throughout the day.  They should have outdoor playtime, access to playground or open grass, and an adequate indoor play environment too.
  • Children's sitting or standing time should be limited to no more than 30 minutes at a time.  IOM also advised against withholding physical activity as punishment.
  • It advised less time in front of a TV.
  •  Children should be fed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low or non-fat dairy that are age-appropriate and in healthy portions since food preferences can be shaped during infancy.
  • The government should make dietary guidelines for children under the age of 2.
  • Sleep duration that is age appropriate should be encouraged because a lack of sleep is a risk factor for obesity.

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soundoff (161 Responses)
  1. PKP

    Another issue is mother's gaining too much weight during pregancy. As an OB, I'm very open with patients at their first prenatal visit and discuss their BMI category. If they are overweight or obese, I give them weight gain recommendations (max 10-15 pounds). But very few of those women follow the recommendations and 36 weeks, they've already gained 50-60 pounds for the pregnancy (despite multiple talks and nutrition appointments). They wonder why their baby born at 37 weeks is 9 pounds! The average birthweight in the US has increased quite a bit in the last 20 years, and that has implications on childhood metabolism and insulin usage. Fellow OBs – please make this an important issue for your patients.

    June 24, 2011 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply

    I cant stand seeing children nowadays. Let alone obese adults including myself, I am finally doing something about it. I am having bariatric surgery. This is interesting when I met with my surgeon he said to me surgery was really the only cure for it and I cant wait. I have a metabollic condidtion that is genetic and surgery can reverse it. Are they going to start putting lapbands on five year olds? Seriously! I read an article the other day that they are starting to do bariatric surgery on teens and pre teens. Thats insane I am a twenty six year old woman who has made this decision herself. It amazes me how many of these children are going to end up obese adults. Their yong they can stop it now.

    June 24, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Quick question, how much time each day to you spend at the gym or working out?

      June 24, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      A recommendation… this surgery is not a “cure all”…I know people who had it done, and, a year or so later, have re-gained a LOT of the pounds they had originally lost… the MAIN thing here is for you to improve your diet and exercise more… fix the “underlying” condition… unless you deal with that first, there is a big chance that the weight will come back.

      June 27, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
    • Sandi

      Your post is an eye-opening way to lose weight for sure. Each psoern should offer support to the other. Also, it is better to have a friend who also wants to lose weight a psoern to support you in weight loss activity to do. Always encouraging one another is more effective and if you got a similar goal minded partner you are less likely to let that partner down.

      March 4, 2012 at 01:13 | Report abuse |
  3. countryboy

    I'll tell you how it happens. We have a healthy little 4 year old who rocks. Our neighbor has a kid the same age and he already has a belly that laps over his waistband.

    We were talking about it and his mom said she didn't know what she could do to get him to lose weight. I asked her what he typically ate for breakfast. She said "He eats two or three pop tarts and then his dad either gets him a mcdonald's breakfast or he eats a second breakfast at daycare."

    What the hell? Our kid might finish a single pop tart and a glass of milk or orange juice in the morning

    June 24, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tuff luv

      if that weren't so sad it would be funny! 2-3 poptarts with a mickey D chaser... NICE–before 10a that kid has consumed most of his caloric needs for the whole day. I think- just my opinion- parents need to take How To Raise a Healthy Child workshop... I know mornings are a crazy time in a house with kids- busses coming, the backpack scramble but there are many healthy breakfast options other than pop tarts... yogurt, pre-prepared hard boiled egg, cottage cheese, fruits, a slice of bread or half a bagel... done, down and dirty. That Mom needs help.

      June 24, 2011 at 17:07 | Report abuse |
    • Gretchen

      My advice would be to never ever ever purchase pop-tarts or anything remotely similar. That would be a good starting point.

      June 24, 2011 at 17:28 | Report abuse |
    • tuff luv

      Gretchen is right... If you never 'offer this' , it won't be desired.. and who can afford this crap anyway? Has anyone priced a box of poptarts lately? These families are rollling some serious dough to give their kids 2-3 'tarts a day! My final thought– we live in a messed up world... every man for himself.. take care of your self and your kids... be responsible, be sensible and do some home work...

      June 24, 2011 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      Your kid might be slimmer but you are shortening his life by feeding him pop tarts on a regular basis. I have a hard time coming up with anything less evil than those things.

      You are no brighter than your neighbor.

      June 26, 2011 at 22:10 | Report abuse |
  4. Christine Ann

    "Almost 10% of infants and toddlers under the age of 2 carry extra weight."

    How is extra weight defined in an infant? Any infant under one who is being breastfed on demand or has a formula intake within pediatricians' guidelines without being fed excessive amounts of junk food as well is likely healthy and just the weight they're supposed to be.

    Anecdotally, my second son was born 10lb 6oz. He was exclusively breastfed until around 7 months old. For all those early months, he was off the charts for weight. He weighed nearly 30 pounds at just 1 year old. Now, a full year later, he only weighs one pound more and is a completely normal weight. Infants follow their own curve, assuming parents aren't feeding 3 month olds fried chicken.

    June 24, 2011 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. it'stheschools

    it would boggle the mind for many without kids to know what these kids are being served in preschool! instead of a healthy. mid-morning snack (which they really don't even need, but somehow the schools think the kiddos can't survive three hours without food), these kids are served cupcakes, icing covered pretzels and sugar laden juice. one of the days this week, they had cupcakes in the morning AND afternoon ... it is truly disgusting, and witnessing this firsthand, articles like this do not surprise me in the least.

    June 24, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tuff luv

      The schools are part of the problem- but it's government subsidized programs.. everything is 'on the cheap'- it's not about nutrition- it's about how many can we feed for less? It starts at HOME. Period. These kids are not being fed properly at home.. these kids would not even know a healthy meal if it fell on their lap... SAD! All they know is Mc'Ds, Mac and Cheese in a box and frozen something-or-others. We are not "of means"- I am a NURSE... but I managed to make healthy lean meals... it can happen. You have to want it to happen.. not take the 'lazy' way out... (PS- and it's cheaper in the end because what you don't pay for in health bills, you can spend on GOOD food for your family).

      June 24, 2011 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
  6. Angela

    It's ridiculous how parents and their sedentary laziness is passed down to their poor kids who can't help it...people don't want to get off the couch at the end of a long work day...well maybe your kids want to play outside so get up and let them. Laziness will be the ultimate demise of our country's financial, health and education systems 🙁

    June 24, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. tuff luv

    Obesity is certainly out of control... I am a nurse. I have worked with the obese population. The fact that an adult is obese is one thing but for our kids to be popping buttons and zippers on their Garanimals is appalling to me. These Moms of 'fat kids' need to wake up- and wake up hard with a slap perhaps. What they are straddling their kids with is a life of health issues, psych issues, cost and social stigma. How can one do that to your child?
    I am also a mother. I wanted nothing but the best for my kids.. I ate 'right' as a pregnant lady because what I ate, they were 'eating' in an indirect way. I raised my family on home cooked meals (yes, there IS time for that even with sports and a full time job). I think its called 'planning'. We do not eat processed anything and we are all lean and fit adults. When I was pregnant I had a great OB... completely discouraged the "eating for two" notion. His 'goal weight' for his moms was something like "baby weight plus 5-7 more- no more". I encourage all medical professionals to take time to 'hammer home' the nutrition message. Pregnancy is not a license to be fat... it's a normal state of a woman's life... and surprisingly the additional caloric requirements for the pregnant lady is not as much as you would think... it's a state of mind for many.

    I am esp concerned about the direction pediatricians give new parents.. the calories these babies ingest in this prolonged use of formula leads to fat babies affectionately called 'Bruiser". I have a neighbor with a 6m old... still not permitted by her pedi to feed the kid.. he's on formula til he's 12m. WHAT? He has TEETH for goodness sake! He needs to start eating real food... he's incidentally in a size 3T clothes- that's right a 6m baby in size 3T- he's 40+ lbs. He's a BALL- it's not right- countless rolls on his limbs and neck. I am disturbed and concerned for him. He cannot yet roll over- she expressed concerns to me over that... I hinted at the fact that it could perhaps be because he physically just can't! Here's an infant already too fat to do normal activity...
    As a nurse- I tended to 'ignore' doctors (professional humor) and sort of progressed my kid's diet on my own... my pedi was likewise very conservative with this crazy idea that they need nothing but liquids until 1 yr. They ate pureed table food and were on 'meals' and milk by around 6 months. The cost saving alone is worth the investment in a food processor but the health of your baby is immeasurable. I never believed in the 'early food introduction' is linked to high food allergy incidence... my kids have zero food intolerances and no health problems.. One is a masters student and the other is a PhD. Both were all-state athletes in high school. Go figure... maybe the food allergy incidences are related to the crap we feed our kids in all the convenience "I'm too lazy" to cook foods available. I cringe everytime I go to the wholesale club and see these large moms with large kids buying frozen everything processed and 5 gallon size barrels of cheese puffs... really? This is what you eat? It's hard not to reach out to them and offer suggestions for better meal planning... sorry for the rant- it's a soap box of mine...

    June 24, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ivana Kadija

    These IOM nutritional recommendations are basically what we have been doing with our children for 30 years! How about we stop treating our obesity epidemic as a moral failure on the part of our citizens and start looking at the deeply compromised food supply and it's accompanying nutritional guidelines... We all need fat, but especially infants and toddlers whose brains are doubling in size by age 3. Protein and fat are the building blocks of the brain, yet the IOM recommends we feed them fruits/veggies and non-fat milk. Non-fat milk is what farmers feed a pig when they want it to GAIN WEIGHT! Yes, it makes the pig hungry (no satiety whatsoever) so he overeats the CORN. These nutritional recommendations will only make our kids neurotic about food and fatter (if that's even possible!). How about we force formula manufacturers to remove the 10.3% sugar, which has been clearly linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer. These are baby milkshakes for heaven's sake! And, simultaneously, we mount a massive public health campaign to get mothers breast feeding again WITH accompanying dispensation from work for at least 6 months. In the long run, this is likely to save us a lot more on health costs.

    June 25, 2011 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tuff luv

      Love the "baby milkshakes" analogy! Nail on the head..would you drink that? Not a chance... why give it to your baby, right?
      Our food industry needs overhauled... our farmers need to raise our animal products on more natural (less fabricated) feeds. I am very careful food consumer. If it is in the market in its natural form, it is worth considering.. otherwise, I pass. We have been given our food by Mother Earth... why do we need to 'fabricate' faux food?
      Ivana you make a great point about our infant feeding... they need healthy fats and proteins... At 4 mos I started mixing breast milk with organic (no hormone) whole milk and eventually weaned them to diary milk by 6 mos. In that time I introduced lean protein products from our dinner table that had met with the food processor. I also included our vegetables.. we are big veggie eaters and to this day, I cannot recall one 'table fight' over not eating something 'green or orange"... they eat everything. I make my own yogurt- we do not eat that faux yogurt... laden with whatever and artificial sweetener.. we eat yogurt mixed with fresh fruit. NO sweetener required which is shocking to so many. Why do you need it when you have beautiful fresh berries in there? It's so easy to make and 20x cheaper it's almost a crime to think about how I'm 'cheating' Dannon...
      I am a 47 yr old woman, my husband is 51. Neither of us takes one prescription med for anything.. including BP or cholesterol or diabetes. I am a size 6, he's a 33 waist. Our friends/family 'marvel' at our health- justifying their $300 monthly pharmacy bill with 'that's what happens when you get older, right?" NO! It is not what happens.. it is what you 'let happen'.
      I am ALL about a massive public health campaign to 'right the food wrongs' but I am cautious enough to believe it might fall on deaf ears.... my best guess is this will take at least 2 generations to correct! In the interim, health care costs rise and we all pay that price, don't we.

      June 25, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
  9. alisa

    Gluten Intolerance Symptoms http://www.aboutgrain.com/

    March 22, 2012 at 03:59 | Report abuse | Reply
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