Everyone loves to squeeze the round cheeks of a chubby baby. But, baby fat may be a predictor of future health problems. In a recent study that looked at more than 16,000 children, more than 40% of overweight kids who were 3 to 5 years old showed preliminary warning signs for future heart disease. In obese teens aged 15 to 17, 83% had low-grade inflammation considered a marker for heart disease in adults. Overweight young adults—aged 20 to 30—were already showing damage to coronary arteries.
Some times it is difficult for parents to recognize that their cute and chubby child is heading in the wrong direction health wise. A 3.5 year old who is 39 inches tall and weighs 34 pounds is within the healthy weight category. The same age child at the same height who weighs 43 pounds would be considered very obese.
Parents of young children need to have frank discussion with their pediatricians when they get their height/weight checkups. Ask the doctor where your child falls in the range of healthy or unhealthy weights. When caught early, young children don’t need to diet. Simply swapping calorie dense foods, like french fries, for fresh fruit, offering fewer snacks, and providing more activity is all that is usually needed to allow the child to grow into a healthy weight. Start early and you’ll prevent problems later on.