Monday, April 23, 2007

Small baby, beware of catching up!

hand of a fat baby
A high birth weight of a baby makes parents happy and proud. A low birth weight makes them feel worried because of higher odds of various diseases later in life. There are many studies showing this. One main focus is the heart: An increased risk of coronary heart disease has been found in low birth weight babies after they have grown up.

This end result may be interesting, but even more important is the question of how this effect evolves in childhood and how it can be curbed or prevented. A Japanese study with such an approach has come to a conclusion that all parents of small babies should know: Low birth weight as such is not necessarily the worst case for baby's future health. Yet worse is a low birth weight followed by a rapid weight gain in infancy.

In order to be able to measure the effect in early childhood, the Japanese researchers have used an indirect approach. In the first years of life, atherosclerosis is not yet detectable. But what can be found are so-called biomarkers known to favour the development of lesions in blood vessels. A rapid weight gain in childhood lowers the level of adiponectin and increases the level of uric acid. Both effects are linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease later in life.

As far as weight is concerned, our nature seems to love steadiness and to hate abrupt changes - in childhood as well as in adulthood. Being overweight may be bad. Yo-yo effect is worse. Being a low-weight baby may be bad. Rapid weight gain is worse. Keep this in mind when you feed your small baby. Let it grow, but not too fast. - (Picture by sockmonkey59 @ Flickr)

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