EarlyBird Says: Early Intervention

Vintage Baby Portrait

Childhood Obesity News has mentioned various aspects of the EarlyBird Study and one of the most important is the fact that dietary habits are established very early in a child’s life. Once established, they tend to be retained. If children’s habits change at all, it’s usually for the worse.

The importance of early intervention has been highlighted again and again by numerous authorities. For instance, in the course of explaining why Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program is “fine, but not enough,” primary care physician Dr. Donald Kushner wrote:

It is never too soon for a family to begin working on its weight problems. The Early Bird Diabetes Study conducted in the United Kingdom found that 90 percent of excess weight in girls and 70 percent in boys is evident as early as age 5.

It would be good if parents could, among other things, get over quaint ideas about outgrowing baby fat. Dr. Kushner believes that family influence is probably the most important factor in childhood obesity. Grandparents are included, because even if the parents are normal weight, kids have a tendency to be heavy if their grandparents are setting that example. He says:

Girls born to obese mothers are 10 times more likely to become obese. Boys born to obese fathers are six times more likely to become obese.

Evidence shows obesity follows gender: Girls follow their mothers and boys their fathers. However, the opposite is not true, even though children pick up an equal number of genes from both parents. This suggests behavior is more important than genetics. In fact, it is estimated that only 20 percent of weight variance can be attributed to genes.

There are three ways to go about anti-obesity training: sessions with kids only; kids and parents together; and parents only. The article mentions an interesting study that appeared in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, looking into the effectiveness of each method, and guess what? The parents-only lessons had the best outcome, in terms of preventing and reducing obesity in children.

Dr. Kushner offers suggestions about how to succeed in preventing childhood obesity, and please do see his article for more detail. This is only a teaser. The main thing is, weight loss per se should not be the goal. You want to go for lifestyle change, the kind that becomes so natural to the person that it’s unconscious. Also, “the approach should provide mutual benefit for the entire family,” and it should be comprehensive and balanced. The approach must be comprehensive and balanced.

Start early, and focus on the long term — that is the message.

P.S. Something is new, over on the right-hand side of the page — Dr. Pretlow’s webinar, “The Epidemic of Childhood Obesity: What’s Our Plan?” We told you a little about it last week, and now here is the whole thing!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood obesity: It’s a family affair,” Post-Gazette.com, 03/03/10
Image by Beverly & Pack.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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