Most childhood obesity prevention efforts have focused on school-age children and adolescents and have had limited success. We argue that the first years of life, including the prenatal period, the postnatal suckling period and the transition to the modified adult diet, may provide opportunities for preventive interventions. These early periods are characterized by high plasticity and rapid transitions, and parents have a high degree of control over children's environments and experiences. Observational and experimental evidence reveal persistent effects of early environments on eating behavior and obesity risk, suggesting that interventions should be tested during these early periods. The central task parents have in early development points to their potential as key targets and agents of change in early preventive interventions. In this paper, we review evidence of early environmental effects on children's eating and obesity risk, highlighting ways that parental feeding practices and parents' own behaviors impact these outcomes and calling for further experimental research to elucidate whether these factors are indeed promising targets for childhood obesity preventive interventions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nutrition and Dietetics
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Medicine (miscellaneous)