The objective of this study was to evaluate the evidence on whether childhood obesity is a risk factor for adult disease, independent of adult body mass index (BMI). Ovid MEDLINE (1948-May 2011), EMBASE (1980-2011 week 18) and the Cochrane Library (1990-2011) were searched for published studies of BMI from directly measured weight and height in childhood (2-19 years) and disease outcomes in adulthood. Data were synthesized in a narrative fashion. Thirty-nine studies (n 181-1.1 million) were included in the review. There was evidence for associations between childhood BMI and type 2 diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease. Few studies examined associations independent of adult BMI; these showed that effect sizes were attenuated after adjustment for adult BMI in standard regression analyses. Although there is a consistent body of evidence for associations between childhood BMI and cardiovascular outcomes, there is a lack of evidence for effects independent of adult BMI. Studies have attempted to examine independent effects using standard adjustment for adult BMI, which is subject to over-adjustment and problems with interpretation. Studies that use more robust designs and analytical techniques are needed to establish whether childhood obesity is an independent risk factor for adult disease.
© 2012 The Authors. obesity reviews © 2012 International Association for the Study of Obesity.