June 19, 2013 at 1:05 AM CDT - Updated July 25 at 5:12 PM
Researchers have identified 45 genetic genetic variants in overweight newborns that are known to occur in obese adults and hope their findings could someday help combat the global obesity epidemic.
"Allowing earlier identification of high-risk newborns may allow for earlier interventions to take place to possibly prevent obesity later in life," study lead author Dr. Reeti Chawla, a fellow in pediatric endocrinology at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in an Endocrine Society news release.
Chawla and colleagues analyzed genetic data from more than 4,400 ethnically diverse newborns in the United States and found 45 genetic variants associated with higher fat levels. These variants were already known to occur in obese adults.
The researchers are now using the 45 genetic variants to develop a genetic risk score to determine whether having a large number of these genetic variants predicts whether newborns are at risk for having increased fat at birth and for obesity later in life.
The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in San Francisco.
Being obese in childhood increases the risk of adult obesity and researchers are trying to identify risk factors to help predict who is at greater risk for weight gain.
More than one-third of American adults are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Being overweight and obese increases the risk of many types of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.