The growth rate during the first 6 months of life is linked to risk for obesity in early and late childhood, according to research results published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Mediterranean countries are currently reporting the highest rates of childhood obesity.  Previous research has suggested that infancy growth rates may affect likelihood of obesity. Therefore, a team of researchers aimed to understand the association between growth rates during the first 6 months of life and risk for obesity later in childhood.

The investigators conducted a secondary analysis using data from 2 studies that were conducted among preschool and preadolescent children in Greece.

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Data were retrospectively collected from birth certificates, health records, and parent recall. Health records were used to collect weight for age, length for age, weight for length, and body mass index (BMI). Children’s birth weight was used to categorize participants into small-for-gestational-age, appropriate-for-gestational-age, and large-for-gestational-age groups. In addition, weight gain was stratified as poor weight gain, normal weight gain, and rapid weight gain.

Receiver operating curves (ROC) were used to identify optimal cutoff points in the changes in weight and height during the first 6 months of life. Exceeding the cutoff would increase the likelihood of overweight and obesity, with the highest possible sensitivity and specificity.

A higher likelihood of overweight and obesity was observed in infants with rapid weight gain in the first 6 months of life (odds ratio [OR], 1.36; 95% CI, 1.14-1.64). A significant association was also found between poor growth rate and the development of overweight and obesity in preadolescent boys (OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.03-2.20).

Changes in weight by age, length for age, and weight for length of 0.54, 0.84, and 0.82, respectively, were significantly associated with a lower likelihood of overweight and obesity in preschool years.

In addition, values up to -0.95, 0.09, and 0.23, respectively, were significantly associated with a lower likelihood of development of overweight or obesity in preadolescence.

One of the study limitations was the retrospective recall of perinatal data in both studies and risk for recall bias.

The study authors concluded, “[T]he optimal growth cut-offs identified in the current study could possibly set the basis for healthcare professionals and families to better monitor, assess, and control infant growth rates.”


Moschonis G, Halilagic A, Karaglani E, et al. Likelihood of obesity in early and late childhood based on growth trajectory during infancy. Int J Obes (Lond). Published online April 19, 2023. doi:10.1038/s41366-023-01310-8

This article originally appeared on Endocrinology Advisor