The age at which a mother had her first period can be used to help predict whether her children are likely to be obese, UK researchers claim.
A study of 6,000 children, published by the Public Library of Science Medicine, found that those whose mothers began their periods early were more likely to grow quickly as babies and be overweight as children.
Previous research has shown that women who start their periods early are themselves more likely to be overweight before puberty and obese in later life.
Dr Ken Ong, lead researcher and paediatric endocrinologist at Cambridge University's Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, told the BBC that the growth pattern starts at birth.
"Beyond links to early puberty, most importantly this growth pattern appears to lead to an increased risk of obesity that lasts from childhood through to adult life," he revealed.
"Knowing that rapid infancy weight gain, early puberty and obesity run together in families may help us identify which children to best target our efforts at right from birth," he added.
Obesity is on the rise in the UK, and over 30,000 people die from obesity-related causes every year in England alone.
Related health problems include arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, and many people opt for obesity surgery to aid weight loss and reduce their risk of obesity-related illnesses.
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Obesity news : 25/04/2007