Researchers Discover New Way to Predict Childhood Obesity

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In Australia, experts can now predict if a newborn baby is at risk of childhood obesity by 8 to 9 years old. 

Experts from the University of Queensland designed and validated the i-PATHWAY model. It uses simple risk factors that researchers mainly gathered during routine doctor visits at 12 months of age to predict future childhood obesity.

Dr. Oliver Canfell, a research fellow and an expert on diet and nutrition, said that the said model could measure the risk of childhood obesity with 74.6% accuracy. 

The risk factors used are the newborn baby's weight change in their first year, mother's height and weight before pregnancy, father's height and weight, and the newborn baby's sleep pattern in the first year. Premature birth, if the mother smoked during her pregnancy and if the baby is female, was also used.

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Childhood obesity prevention

Dr. Canfell said that childhood obesity prevention was most effective in the first 1,000 days of the newborn baby's life. The said model could be used to plan the prevention for newborn babies who are at high risk. 

The expert added that they chose to predict childhood obesity at age 8 or 9 because the older the newborn baby or the child with obesity, the more likely they are to live with it as an adult. 

He also mentioned that it is vital to help prevent childhood obesity in the long term. 

The study used data from almost 2,000 children, followed from when they were still newborn babies to their age of 9 in the "Raine Study" in Western Australia. 

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The results of the research:

Experts said that their data has shown to predict childhood obesity in Australia is possible. But for the model to be used in practice, they need to test it first in a different group of children to confirm that its predictions are still valid. Once the model is validated in a diverse group, they can now use it in practice and see how effective it is to prevent childhood obesity. 

Dr. Robyn Littlewood, Chief Executive of Health and Wellbeing in Queensland, said that supporting children and families in the early years had the potential to transform lives. She added that every child and family is vital, so ways based on prevention are crucial. 

Dr. Littlewood also pointed out that as Queensland's prevention agency, they are in support. They allow experts to merge prevention into their practice and work with them on referral pathways that support Queensland children and families in their homes and communities. 

Right now, Dr. Canfell works with the Queensland Digital Health Research Network at UQ. He also mentioned that the UQ network and model were just granted as a Global Change Initiative. It was also noted to be a gateway to the next part of research that will transform the model into a useful clinical tool. 

The i-PATHWAY research was published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health and was co-authored by Dr. Robyn Littlewood, Dr. Olivia Wright, and Dr. Jacqueline Walker. 

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