Schools have banned cupcakes, issued obesity report cards and cleared space in cafeterias for salad bars. Just last month, Michelle Obama's campaign to end childhood obesity promised to get young people moving more and revamp school lunch, and beverage makers said they had cut the sheer number of liquid calories shipped to schools by almost 90 percent in the past five years.
But new research suggests that interventions aimed at school-aged children may be, if not too little, too late.
More and more evidence points to pivotal events very early in life — during the toddler years, infancy and even before birth, in the womb — that can set young children on an obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they're in kindergarten. The evidence is not ironclad, but it suggests that prevention efforts should start very early.
Among the findings are these:
The chubby cherub-like baby who is growing so nicely may be growing too much for his or her own good, research suggests.
Babies who sleep less than 12 hours are at increased risk for obesity later. If they don't sleep enough and also watch two hours or more of TV a day, they are at even greater risk.
Some early interventions are already widely practiced. Doctors recommend that overweight women lose weight before pregnancy rather than after, to cut the risk of obesity and diabetes in their children; breast-feeding is also recommended to lower the obesity risk.