A new study suggests that overweight newborns may share the same genetic marker for a higher risk for obesity later in life, which may eventually allow doctors to identify those predisposed to obesity as soon as they're born.
Reeti Chawla, a pediatric endocrinologist with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says that she and her team were able to identify 45 genetic markers that are linked to both obesity in adults and are commonly found in babies with large birth weights.
In the United States, babies that are 8 pounds, 13 ounces or more are generally considered to be "large for gestational age."
"Obesity is such a complex trait that obviously has a lot of environmental components, but it appears babies born large have an increased risk for obesity later in life," Chawla says.
The study was based on the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes, a study that looked at more than 4,400 newborns and their mothers' blood sugar levels. Subsequent studies will follow these children as they grow up.
She says that the findings, which she discussed Tuesday at The Endocrine Society's annual meeting in San Francisco, may lead to the ability to give newborns a "genetic score" on obesity risk factors. Though Chawla says it's going to be tough to find a doctor who is overly concerned about a newborn gaining weight, she says that if parents know their child is at risk for obesity, they can make earlier interventions to make sure they remain healthy.
"I think we'll be able to say 'Maybe we need to follow these kids more closely,' or 'Maybe the weight guidelines should be different for those newborns,'" she says.