Obesity in kindergarten doesn’t necessarily stick

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One-third of US children with obesity in kindergarten have a lower weight status at least once through childhood, research finds.

The findings also show that 22 percent of these kids experience persistent remission of obesity—getting to and maintaining a lower weight status—by 8th grade.

Katherine Bauer, assistant professor in the nutritional sciences department of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, wanted to understand the remission of childhood obesity after reading a 2014 study in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed the majority of children with obesity by kindergarten continued to experience obesity throughout childhood.

Understanding how some kids achieved a non-obese weight status over time may shed light on how we can help all children with obesity, she says.

Bauer and colleagues Danny Luan, a recent graduate, and Briana Mezuk, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, used the same dataset as the 2014 NEJM study but looked at it differently.

Using this nationally representative sample of more than 21,000 kindergartners, the researchers did the opposite of what nearly all other studies tracking children’s growth have done. Instead of starting with all children and seeing who develops obesity, they started with the kids who had obesity in kindergarten and looked at what happened to them over time.

There were some distinct patterns among the children who experienced obesity remission, Bauer says. At first glance, girls and children from higher socioeconomic status families appeared more likely to be able to overcome early childhood obesity.

But after accounting for the fact that these children, while still experiencing obesity, had lower BMIs in kindergarten than their peers, these differences disappeared.

Sleepy kids may struggle with obesity later

One thing that is clear was that kids who experienced remission gained much less weight over time than the children who remained obese, often gaining half or one-third as many pounds than their peers every two years, the study shows.

“We need to help limit children’s weight gain. Obesity is not something kids just grow out of by spurting up in height,” Bauer says.

“Some children are able to experience remission even if they don’t participate in clinic-based weight management programs, which may be hard for some families to access. By continuing to understand children who experience obesity remission, we can identify creative ways to give children and families the support they need.”

The study appears in Pediatric Obesity.

Source: University of Michigan