Early clinical markers of overweight/obesity onset and resolution by adolescence



We examined how combinations of clinical indicators at various ages predict overweight/obesity development, as well as resolution, by 10–11 and 14–15 years of age.


Data were derived from Birth (N = 3469) and Kinder (N = 3276) cohorts of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, followed from ages 2–3 and 4–5 years, respectively. Every two years, 25 potential obesity-relevant clinical indicators were quantified. Overweight/obesity was defined using International Obesity Taskforce cutpoints at 10–11 years and 14–15 years.


In both cohorts, three factors predicted both development and resolution of overweight/obesity in multivariable models. Among normal weight children, increased odds of developing overweight/obesity were associated with higher child (odd ratio (OR) 1.67–3.35 across different study waves) and maternal (OR 1.05–1.09) BMI, and inversely with higher maternal education (OR 0.60–0.62, when assessed at age 2–7 years). Lower odds of resolving existing overweight/obesity were related with higher child (OR 0.51–0.79) and maternal (OR 0.89–0.95) BMI, and inversely with higher maternal education (OR 1.62–1.92, when assessed at age 2–5 years). The prevalence of overweight/obesity at the age of 14–15 years was 13% among children with none of these risk factors at age 6–7 years, compared with 71% among those with all 3 risk factors (P < 0.001).


From early childhood onwards, child and maternal BMI and maternal education predict overweight/obesity onset and resolution by adolescence. A simple risk score, easily available to child health clinicians, could help target treatment or prevention.

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Prof. MJ was supported by Juho Vainio Foundation and federal research grants to Turku University Hospital. Prof. MW was supported by NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship 1046518 and Cure Kids New Zealand. Dr Magnussen is supported by a National Heart Foundation of Australia Future Leader Fellowship (100849). Prof. DB is supported by NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship 1064629 and an Honorary Future Leader Fellowship of the National Heart Foundation of Australia (100369). Dr KL was supported by NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (1091124) and Honorary National Heart Foundation of Australia Postdoctoral Fellowship (101239). Research at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute research is supported by the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Program. The funding bodies did not play any role in the study.

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Juonala, M., Lau, T., Wake, M. et al. Early clinical markers of overweight/obesity onset and resolution by adolescence. Int J Obes 44, 82–93 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-019-0457-2

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