Formula could predict your baby's chances of growing into a fat child



01:56 GMT, 29 November 2012

The two-minute test predicts if a newborn baby is going to grow into an obese child

The two-minute test predicts if a newborn baby is going to grow into an obese child

At one of the happiest times of their life, it may not be what a parent wants to hear.

But scientists have created a two-minute questionnaire said to predict if a newborn baby will become obese when they grow up.

Six simple questions are used to calculate the risk that he or she will be dangerously overweight by the age of 16.

Factors taken into account include the parents’ weight and whether the mother smoked in pregnancy.

The calculator, available online, is the brainchild of researchers at Imperial College London, who say the test could be used to help instill good habits in parents early on so their children do not grow up to be overweight.

Some 17 per cent of boys and 15 per cent of girls aged two to 15 in England are obese.

Experts have warned that if the tide doesn’t turn, today’s children run the risk of being the first to die at a younger age than their parents.

Lead researcher Professor Philippe Froguel said: ‘Once a young child becomes obese, it’s difficult for them to lose weight, so prevention is the best strategy and it has to begin as early as possible.

‘Unfortunately, public prevention campaigns have been rather ineffective at preventing obesity in school-age children.

‘Teaching parents about the dangers of over-feeding and bad nutritional habits at a young age would be much more effective.’

Professor Froguel’s team whittled dozens of factors linked to obesity down to six pointers which they claim, taken together, provides an accurate prediction of risk.

First you are asked for the mother’s and father’s body mass index – a measure of weight in comparison to height. It is thought the children of overweight adults are more likely to become fat themselves because they learn bad habits from their parents.

The calculator then asks for the number of people in the household. Studies have shown children from single-parent families have higher odds of obesity, perhaps because the parent has less time to spare in looking after them.

The test asks six simple questions to calculate the risk

The test asks six simple questions to calculate the risk

The fourth question asks for the mother’s professional status and the fifth asks whether the mother smoked in pregnancy. While babies of smokers can be lighter when they are born, they tend to pile on the pounds later.

Finally, the baby’s weight at birth is tapped in.

Large-scale testing of the calculator on children in Finland, Italy and the US showed it to be quick and accurate.It also emerged that including genetic information provided little extra benefit.

Researcher Professor Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin said that the calculations could be carried out on newborns or at clinics when babies are being weighed and monitored.

Parents with children at high risk of obesity could then be given extra information on healthy eating and exercise.

Writing in the journal PLoS ONE, the researchers said that parents could also be advised about breastfeeding, which is thought to reduce the risk of a baby growing up to become obese, avoiding TV and not giving their children fizzy drinks.

Professor Jarvelin added: ‘One of the key issues is how much children sit in front of their computers rather than interacting or playing with other children.’

Tam Fry, of the Child Growth Foundation, said: ‘Every thinking parent should be using this kind of help in order to give them the encouragement to control what they feed their children so they don’t get obese.’

Find the test at: