BOSTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Efforts to address obesity with a goal of reducing the risk of adult diabetes should involve overweight children, and should begin as early as age 2 years, particularly in those from racial or ethnic minorities and from low income families, findings from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort of 2001 suggest.

Of 3,400 children from the nationally representative cohort, 15.9% were obese at age 2 years, and the risk of obesity during the preschool years, from age 2 years to 5 years, was 12.1%, Shivani A. Patel, Ph.D., reported in a poster at the annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association.

Those who were overweight vs. normal weight at age 2 years were more likely to be obese at age 5 years (odds ratio, 2.7), said Dr Patel of Emory University, Atlanta.

Incident obesity at age 5 years was higher among Hispanic children (OR, 2.3) and black children (OR, 2.1), compared with white children, and among those from low vs. high income families (OR, 2.1).

Those with birth weight greater than 2,500 g vs. those with low birth weight also were more likely to be obese at age 5 years (OR, 6.6,) as were those whose mothers were obese vs. non-obese before their pregnancy (OR, 2.0), according to Dr. Patel.

“Of overweight 2-years-olds, more than 1 in 4 who were Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, low-income, or who were born to obese mothers became obese by age 5,” she noted.

The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study involves three nationally representative cohorts, including the birth cohort addressed in the current study (children born in 2001 and followed through kindergarten entry), a cohort of children in kindergarten during 1998-1999 who were followed through the eighth grade, and a cohort of children in kindergarten in 2010-2011, who will be followed through the fifth grade. The study is examining child development, school readiness, and early childhood experiences. Normal weight, overweight, and obesity were defined using age-appropriate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention body mass index cut points.

The findings provide important information about incident obesity – a potential risk factor for adult diabetes – in preschool age children; few prior studies have addressed incident obesity in this age group, Dr. Patel said.

She reported having no relevant financial disclosures.