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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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