THE RISK of a childhood obesity could be identified in babies as young as six months, scientists have found.
American doctors have used simple Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements to single out infants destined to struggle with weight in later life.
It is hoped the findings could help prevent obesity in early childhood and even beyond.
According to figures released earlier this year, nearly 20,000 children in Yorkshire and the Humber leave primary school overweight or obese.
Hull and Bradford, along with Redcar and Cleveland and Middlesbrough, have the highest numbers, with 36 per cent of the 10-to-11 age group - 970 children in Hull alone - weigh too much, increasing their risk of heart disease as they grow older.
The new study, led by doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, compared 783 lean and 480 severely obese children, selected on the basis of their BMI readings between the ages of two and six.
They included severely obese children referred to the hospital for specialised care.
BMI is a system of relating height and weight and expressed as kilograms per metres squared. In adults, a BMI of 30kg/m2 or above is classified as obese.
Growth and weight records showed that the BMI trajectories of children who were severely obese by the age of six began to differ from that of normal weight children at about four months of age.
Study leader Dr Allison Smego said: “These children have a high lifetime risk for persistent obesity and metabolic disease and should be monitored closely at a very young age.”
She added: “BMI at six, 12 or 18 months of age ... can accurately predict children at risk for early childhood obesity.
“It’s not currently recommended to measure BMI in children under the age of two, but we say it should be because we now know it predicts obesity risk later.
“Paediatricians can identify high-risk infants with BMI above the 85th percentile (top 15%) and focus additional counselling and education regarding healthy lifestyles toward the families of these children. Our hope in using this tool is that we can prevent obesity in early childhood.”
A study published in The Lancet journal on Thursday predicted that - if current trends continue - more than a fifth of people in the world will be obese by 2025.
The research, led by a team from Imperial College London, showed that over a 40-year period between 1975 and 2014 the global number of obese individuals had soared from 105 million to 641 million.
With each passing decade, the average person had become 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) heavier. If trends continues, 18 per cent of men and 21 per cent of women worldwide will be obese by the year 2025, scientists predict.
In 2014 England-wide data showed the number of outsized or overweight people in North Yorkshire was 67.9 per cent - higher than the 63.8 per cent of adults in England who are overweight or obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or over. Local authority areas with high obesity rates included Doncaster and Bolsover.
Fattest in Europe
British men and women will be the fattest in Europe within the next nine years, researchers have warned.
A study that looked at obesity rates around the world found that almost four out of 10 of British adults will be obese by 2025 - 38 per cent.
Britain’s obese women will be followed by Ireland (37 per cent) and Malta (34 per cent) and have the most fat men along with Ireland and then Lithuania (36 per cent). An even higher proportion of American women (43 per cent) and men (45 per cent) are predicted to be obese in 2025.
Almost a fifth of the world’s obese adults - 118 million - live in just six high-income English-speaking countries - Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK, and USA.