Researchers say a baby’s chance of being obese in childhood can be predicted at birth using a simple formula.
The formula combines several known factors to estimate the risk of obesity.
The authors of the study, published in PLos One, hope it will be used to identify babies at risk.
Childhood obesity can lead to many health problems, including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Researchers from Imperial College London looked at 4,032 Finnish children born in 1986 and at data from two further studies of 1,053 Italian children and 1,032 US children.
They found that looking at a few simple measurements, such as a child’s birthweight and whether the mother smoked, was enough to predict obesity.
Previously it had been thought that genetic factors would give bigger clues to later weight problems, but only about one in 10 cases of obesity is the result of a rare gene mutation that affects appetite.
Obesity in children is rising, with the National Health Service estimating that 17 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys in England are now obese.