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Proc Nutr Soc. 2018 Aug;77(3):247-256. doi: 10.1017/S0029665118000411. Epub 2018 May 29.

Prevention of overweight and obesity in early life.

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The Childhood Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Child Health, University College London,30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH,UK.


Childhood obesity is a serious challenge for public health. The problem begins early with most excess childhood weight gained before starting school. In 2016, the WHO estimated that 41 million children under 5 were overweight or obese. Once established, obesity is difficult to reverse, likely to persist into adult life and is associated with increased risk of CVD, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Preventing obesity is therefore of high importance. However, its development is multi-factorial and prevention is a complex challenge. Modifiable lifestyle behaviours such as diet and physical activity are the most well-known determinants of obesity. More recently, early-life factors have emerged as key influencers of obesity in childhood. Understanding risk factors and how they interact is important to inform interventions that aim to prevent obesity in early childhood. Available evidence supports multi-component interventions as effective in obesity prevention. However, relatively few interventions are available in the UK and only one, TrimTots, has been evaluated in randomised controlled trials and shown to be effective at reducing obesity risk in preschool children (age 1-5 years). BMI was lower in children immediately after completing TrimTots compared with waiting list controls and this effect was sustained at long-term follow-up, 2 years after completion. Developing and evaluating complex interventions for obesity prevention is a challenge for clinicians and researchers. In addition, parents encounter barriers engaging with interventions. This review considers early-life risk factors for obesity, highlights evidence for preventative interventions and discusses barriers and facilitators to their success.


RCT randomised controlled trial; Infants; Nutrition; Obesity prevention; Preschool children

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