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BMI at two months is more accurate than measuring weight-for-length

Posted:  Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BMI predicts childhood obesity better than WFL! The weight gain of children over age 2 years can be assessed using either Body Mass Index (BMI) or weight-for-length (WFL). According to pediatric researchers, infants with above normal BMI at age two months are at risk to be obese at age two years. In a new study, the researchers say that assessing BMI can help in better prediction of early childhood obesity than WFL.

In the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) follow-up study, a research team led by Dr. Sani Roy, a paediatric endocrinology fellow at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) analysed the medical records of 74,000 full-term infants till they reached 2 years of age. The growth and weight gain pattern were recorded using both WFL and BMI methods, and the measurement critera were correlated to identify the most reliable predictor of early stage obesity.

Results showed that, according to BMI classification 31% of two-month-old babies with BMI at or above the 85th percentile were obese at age two, compared to 23% as per WFL. Similarly, in babies at the 97.7th percentile for BMI at age of 2 months, 47% of babies were obese at age two years compared to 29% as analysed using WFL.

In clinical care set up, WFL charts are more widely than BMI charts to monitor baby’s growth till two years of age. BMI usually is used in children over age two years to identify the risk of health complications of over-weight or future obesity. The weight gain and linear growth rates differ greatly during infancy and unlike BMI charts, WFL charts do not have age component and it is important to access both age and length when evaluating excess weight gain. Hence, the results strongly support BMI as dependable measurement criteria than WFL.

Dr. Babette S. Zemel, Senior author and the Director of CHOP's Nutrition and Growth Laboratory states "To our knowledge, this was the first study to compare BMI to WFL in predicting future obesity risk in a large, diverse cohort of full-term infants," and "We found that while BMI and WFL agreed after age six months, high BMI at age two months was a better predictor of obesity at two years of age than WFL. We recommend that clinicians consider measuring BMI in early infancy."

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