Researchers From The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Find that Rapid Infant Weight Gain May be Associated with Obesity in African American Young Adults

03/6/2003

PHILADELPHIA, March 6 /PRNewswire/ -- African Americans who gained weight more rapidly than their peers in the first four months of life were more likely to be obese as young adults, 20 years later. Researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania today presented results at the American Heart Association's 43rd Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease, Epidemiology and Prevention, in association with the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism in Miami. The study is an analysis of 300 children in Philadelphia who were followed as part of a long-term, larger study from 1962 through 1989.

"Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions among both children and adults in the U.S., and obesity rates are particularly high among African Americans," said Nicolas Stettler, M.D., M.C.S.E., a pediatric nutrition specialist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and primary investigator of the study. "These results may support a public health focus on strategies for preventing obesity early in life, during critical periods of growth."

This study reinforces Dr. Stettler's earlier research that found that rapid weight gain during the first four months of life was significantly associated with an increased risk of being overweight at age seven, regardless of birth weight and weight at one year of age. That study reflected a much larger sample of both white and African American children from 12 U.S. cities, of which the current population is a subset.

Approximately 29 percent of the subjects had a rapid early infancy weight gain, and the prevalence of adult obesity was 8 percent. Subjects with a rapid early infant weight gain were more than twice as likely to be obese 20 years later than subjects without rapid early infant weight gain. The risk for adult obesity increased with more rapid rates of weight gain in early infancy.

"Our results suggest that early infant weight gain is a critical period for the establishment of obesity," said Stettler. "This may lead to new hypotheses to origins of obesity and to new approaches for obesity prevention. It is premature to make recommendations for treatment, further research is required."

Coauthors of the study are Babette S. Zemel, Ph.D. and Virginia A. Stallings, M.D. from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Shiriki Kumanyika, Ph.D., M.P.H; University of Pennsylvania, Solomon H. Katz, Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is ranked today as the best pediatric hospital in the nation by a comprehensive Child magazine survey. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking second in National Institutes of Health funding. Children's Hospital operates the largest pediatric healthcare system in the U.S. with more than 40 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Contact: Joey Marie McCool Phone (215) 590-7092 McCool@email.chop.edu