Kids who are obese by the time they start kindergarten are likely to stay that way through childhood and into adulthood, according to a new study that suggests efforts to combat childhood obesity need to start a lot sooner. Kids who are obese at 5 are four times more likely to be obese by 8th grade than their peers, researchers found, and their chances of becoming obese—or ceasing to be obese—dropped as the years went by, USA Today reports. "A lot of the risk of obesity may start early in life," says the lead researcher, who suggests preschoolers be given a healthy diet and plenty of opportunities to be active.
"What is striking is the relative decrease in incidence after that initial blast" of obesity that happens before age 5, the vice president of the Emory Global Health Institute tells the New York Times. "It is almost as if, if you can make it to kindergarten without the weight, your chances are immensely better." A professor of nutrition notes that efforts to combat childhood obesity have focused on school-age children, and the study suggests "one reason it didn’t work so well is that by the time kids are 5, the horse is out of the barn." (Read more obesity stories.)