Children who are relatively tall for their age may be at increased risk for developing obesity, according to a study published online in Obesity.

David S. Freedman, Ph.D., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues assessed the longitudinal relationship between childhood height and later body mass index (BMI) using an electronic health record database of 2.8 million children. Follow-up occurred every four years following an initial examination between the ages of 2 and 13.9 years.

The researchers found that height-for-age at the first visit was associated with subsequent BMI and obesity, with the prevalence of subsequent obesity increasing about fourfold over six categories of height-for-age at the first visit. Roughly 40 percent of this association was independent of initial BMI. However, the magnitude of the association decreased with initial age, with the initial height-for-age of children who were ≥12 years only weakly associated with subsequent BMI.

“Health professionals should recognize that greater childhood height-for-age before 12 years of age may be a marker for increased risk of subsequent obesity,” the authors write.

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