Background: Identifying important ages for the development of overweight is essential for optimizing preventive efforts. The purpose of the study was to explore early growth characteristics in children who become overweight or obese at the age of 8 years to identify important ages for the onset of overweight and obesity.
Methods: Data from the Norwegian Child Growth Study in 2010 (N = 3172) were linked with repeated measurements from health records beginning at birth. Weight and height were used to derive the body mass index (BMI) in kg/m2. The BMI standard deviation score (SDS) for each participant was estimated at specific target ages, using a piecewise linear mixed effect model.
Results: At 8 years of age, 20.4% of the children were overweight or obese. Already at birth, overweight children had a significantly higher mean BMI SDS than normal weight 8-year-olds (p < .001) and this difference increased in consecutive age groups in infancy and childhood. A relatively large increase in BMI during the first 9 months was identified as important for being overweight at 8 years. BMI SDS at birth was associated with overweight at 8 years of age (OR, 1.8; 1.6-2.0), and with obesity (OR, 1.8; 1.4-2.3). The Odds Ratios for the BMI SDS and change in BMI SDS further increased up to 1 year of age became very high from 2 years of age onwards.
Conclusions: A high birth weight and an increasing BMI SDS during the first 9 months and high BMI from 2 years of age proved important landmarks for the onset of being overweight at 8 years of age. The risks of being overweight at 8 years appear to start very early. Interventions to prevent children becoming overweight should not only start at a very early age but also include the prenatal stage.