Overweight and obese children may be more likely to have developmental delays

11 February 2016

A new study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, has found that overweight and obese children are more likely to experience developmental delays than children of a normal weight.

The US study collected data on nearly 10,000 children in two stages (at mean ages of around 10 months and then again around 24 months) to assess weight and developmental progress.

The authors discovered that children who were overweight or obese at both checks were more likely to demonstrate motor and mental developmental delay, compared with those who were never overweight or obese.

They found:

  • 9% of children who were obese at both checks experienced motor developmental delays at the second stage check (compared with 4.9 -7.3% of other children
  • More than 10% of children who were obese at both checks experienced mental developmental delays (compared with 6 -7.2% of other children)

The authors say these results have major implications for healthcare providers.

They state: “We intend for this study to raise clinicians' awareness of obesity as a risk factor that calls for prompt encouragement of healthy behaviours as a means of attenuating developmental concerns in young children.

“Furthermore, it may be important to expand current early childhood interventions designed to address developmental delay to incorporate weight management, further enhancing their effectiveness.”

The authors conclude that poor developmental outcomes may be a consequence of obesity.

They say further research in this area is needed, but point out that if the association is confirmed then physical growth parameters may be useful in screening criteria for developmental disabilities.

You can read the full paper here.