IOM report outlines steps to prevent early childhood obesity

It’s no secret America has a weight problem, but in a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) revealed one in five children between the ages of two and five is obese or overweight. The rate has doubled since just the 1980s.

According to a report in USA Today, “Many young children don’t grow out of their baby fat, and that extra weight increases their risk of obesity later in life, says Leann Birch, chair of the IOM committee that prepared the report and director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at the Pennsylvania State University.”

The IOM “report is aimed at child-care regulatory agencies, child-care providers and early childhood educators, but much of the advice could apply to parents, too.”

The Washington Post reports, “Mothers, fathers, day-care workers, preschool employees and others should limit how much time kids spend parked in front of the television, watching videos and using other electronic gadgets, make sure they get enough exercise and sleep, and ensure they eat the right foods,” the IOM recommends.

Approximately “10 percent of US children between infancy and age two are overweight, according to the report.”

In children ages two to five, “the situation is worse — more than 20 percent are too heavy, a rate that has doubled since the 1980s, the report says.”

The AP points out that because “parents have the biggest influence over whether healthy eating and being active become a child’s norm,” the new “report makes the case that children’s habits are influenced by far more than their parents – and thus it’s time to expand obesity prevention to more of the other places youngsters spend time,” including at day care.

Pointing out the role of diet, the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (put out by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture) don’t include suggestions for children younger than age two, but it should, the study argues, since that is a critical time in a child’s development.”

The Wall Street Journal “Health Blog” reported that breastfeeding appears to play a key role in preventing obesity in early childhood.

For that reason, the IOM recommended that infants be breastfed exclusively until six months of age. After that, they should be breastfed and given other supplementary foods until at least one year of age. And, for those women who cannot or will not breastfeed, the IOM also provides formula-feeding guidelines, one of which is not feeding the baby a bottle whenever it cries.

As for other measures to prevent young children from becoming obese, the CNN “The Chart” blog reported that the report recommended having children’s weight and height measured during visits to the child’s physician, encouraging little children to play and be physically active during the day, limiting sitting or standing time to no more than half an hour at a time, and making sure that the little ones get enough sleep.

For tons of more tips on treating or preventing childhood obesity, consider picking up a copy of my Amazon.com-bestselling book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat.

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