OBESITY may be encountered at any age in pediatric practice. In infancy it seldom causes concern either to parents or the physician. Parents, in fact, are inclined to view with approval and no little pride the overweight infant who eagerly consumes barge quantities of food. Such accomplishments are looked upon as indications of health at its best.
The physician's lack of concern stems from his knowledge that the obesity of the first year of life is almost certainly transitory and will diminish with the increased activity and lessened appetite which can confidently be expected during the second and preschool years. Stuart feels that the chief significance of obesity in the young infant with an excessive appetite appears to be the indication that the infant readily responds to a positive caloric balance by storing fat. "This," he states, "may be a portent of obesity to follow in adolescent or adult life, if the habit of overeating is developed and maintained." It would seem, therefore, that an indication clearly exists for the institution of parental education in the basic principle of good nutrition even at this early age.
Obesity in the preschool years is relatively uncommon. Thinness rather than obesity is the characteristic of this age period. During the early school years susceptible children, rather insidiously at first, begin to show the trend for excessive fat deposition. Its peak incidence occurs roughly between the years of 8 and 14. Many of these children will, during the next few years, gradually lose their obesity and emerge as young adults with quite acceptable figures (Fig. 1). Whether this comes about as a voluntary reduction in caloric intake or is the result of a readjustment in physiology of the body is not quite clear.
- Copyright © 1957 by the American Academy of Pediatrics