Researchers have created a formula to calculate a baby's chance of being obese in childhood at birth

Childhood obesity experts from the Imperial College London looked at data from more than 6,500 children across Italy, America and Finland to create the formula based on several known obesity risk factors to estimate the risk of obesity.

They say they hope it will be used to identify babies at risk and help reduce incidences of including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease in children.

Prof Philippe Froguel, who led the study, said: "The equation is based on data everyone can obtain from a newborn, and we found it can predict around 80% of obese children.

"Unfortunately, public prevention campaigns have been rather ineffective at preventing obesity in school-age children. Teaching parents about the dangers of overfeeding and bad nutritional habits at a young age would be much more effective.

"The message is simple. All at-risk children should be identified, monitored and given good advice, but this costs money."

Predictors used in the calculation include:

-The child's birthweight

-The parents' body mass index

-Number of people in the household

-The mother's professional status

-Whether or not the mother smoked during pregnancy

Risk factors for obesity are already well known, but this is the first time these factors have been put together in a formula.

Prof Paul Gately, a specialist in childhood obesity at Leeds Metropolitan University, said a tool like this would help the NHS target specific people at risk rather than the "scattergun one-size-fits-all approach, which we know does not work".

"Rather than spending money on a huge number of people, we can be more specific and spend appropriately," he added.

"Tools like this will help change the attitude that everyone is at risk, which is increasing NHS bills. Once we use the tool, we need intervention programmes for children at a greater risk."

NHS estimates suggest that 17% of boys and 15% of girls in England are now obese.

Posted 30/11/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com