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Fat as a child, fat as an adult?

According to estimations of the WHO (World Health Organisation) around 400 million children and adolescents were affected by being overweight or obese in 2016. In many countries, it is also the case that the growth in people affected is faster amongst children than it is for adults.

This development is a cause for concern, as the foundations for nutrition in adulthood are established in childhood. The assumption is that the number of fat cells (adipocytes) are defined during childhood and adolescence, and mostly remain constant throughout the course of life. The growth in fat mass in adulthood is therefore based primarily on a growth in the size of the adipocytes. However, for obese people, there is evidence of not only an increase in size but also a greater number of fat cells. This increase in fat cells is now being discussed as a possible cause for obesity and excess weight.

Accordingly, studies have shown that overweight children and teenagers have an increased risk of also being overweight in adult life and suffering from chronic weight problems.

Researchers from Harvard University developed a computer model based on data from more than 40,000 children and adults, with which they can simulate the weight development of children in the US, up to the age of 35. The results were published in late 2017 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The model predicted that the risk of obesity in adulthood increases with steady excess weight in youth. According to these findings, an obese two year old will have a 75% probability of suffering from obesity at the age of 35. If the obesity persists until the age of 19, the probability will rise to 88%. The development of normal weight as an adult works in the same way. The longer children and teenagers remain at a normal weight, the lower the risk of obesity in adulthood.

These results show that prevention in childhood plays a crucial role in the battle against the global epidemic of obesity and its associated illnesses. However, the problem is that excess weight in many children is not always recognised as such until late. Therefore, regular weight checks are advisable and should be part of health care provisions. Excess weight can be identified and treated early. seca offers a range of scales for domestic and professional use.

Excess weight and obesity represent a serious but preventable health risk. For this reason, they must not be trivialised and should be identified and treated as soon as possible. Normal weight in childhood, in turn, sets the basis for a healthy life into adulthood.

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