The EarlyBird Study found that the rise in obesity among very young children is seen mainly among cases where the parents are obese. In contrast, obesity among adolescents has risen across the entire age group, not just in cases where the parents are obese, suggesting that parenting is the fundamental influence on weight gain in very young children.
Judy More, paediatric dietitian and ITF member, said: “It is interesting that this study identifies two clear phases in childhood obesity. One of environment, where access to sugary and fatty foods is influencing adolescents, and that of the problem of parent overweight and obesity influencing a toddler’s later health outcomes.
"We need to tailor our approach and act as early as possible to prevent serious health problems for children in later life. Families need consistent, practical advice to get back on the right track if we are going to halt the obesity epidemic. The Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers is an easy-to-use guide on what food to offer toddlers, what behaviour to encourage and how best to manage mealtimes, supporting all families to take small steps towards a healthier life. Parents can be reassured that by keeping to the ITF’s portion sizes, toddlers will not be eating too much but will still grow and develop without gaining too much weight.
“It’s clear we should act even earlier in improving outcomes, by having a conversation with women before, during and after pregnancy. Children born to women who begin pregnancy at a healthy weight and who eat a nutritious diet during pregnancy have the best long term health outcomes. Our report, Early Nutrition for Later Health: Time to Act Earlier stresses the need for healthcare professionals to advise families on developing healthy family lifestyles.”
The ITF is calling on healthcare professionals to join the conversation on Twitter by using #ActEarlier4Health.