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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Johns Hopkins: Less Active Infants Had Greater Fat Accumulation, Study Finds

Less physical activity for infants below one year of age may lead to more fat accumulation which in turn may predispose them to obesity later in life, suggests a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In the study, published January 16 in the journal Obesity, researchers tracked the physical activity levels of 506 infants using small ankle-worn accelerometers for four days per tracking period at ages 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. For each tracking period after 3, average physical activity increased by about four percent, in line with infants becoming generally more mobile and active over the course of their first year. Among infants, higher physical activity measured by the accelerometer was associated with lower central adiposity, a measure of lower-torso fat accumulation.

Dr. Sara Benjamin-Neelon, Helaine and Sidney Lerner Professor of Public Health Promotion in the Bloomberg School’s department of health, behavior and society, is the study’s lead author.

There is evidence that infants who gain weight more rapidly in the first months of life are more likely to have obesity years later in middle childhood. About 40 percent of adults in the U.S. — more than 90 million people — are obese, up from 15 percent in 1970. Obesity brings a greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, autoimmune disorders, and many other ailments. Scientists suspect rising obesity rates are linked to higher-calorie diets and lower rates of physical activity, and that both can start promoting obesity in early life.

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