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A high birth weight may put infants at increased risk of becoming obese as children, says a study.

By identifying at-risk infants early, doctors could work with parents to prevent weight gain and the health problems it eventually brings.

"We are hopeful that these data may help physicians and families make healthy lifestyle decisions for their young children to avoid later weight problems," said researcher Mark DeBoer of the University of Virginia Children's Hospital in the US.

The study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, looked at 10 186 children across the US, both those born at term and those born prematurely. 

The children born with high birth weight at term were more likely to be obese by preschool than their average-weight counterparts. 

A similar finding held true in the children born prematurely, starting in grade one.

Children born with a large birth weight (above 4.5 kgs at term) were 69 per cent more likely than average weight children to be obese by preschool and continuing at least through second grade, the researchers determined. 

By grade two, the last grade examined, 23.1 percent of children born with high birth weight were obese. 

In comparison, children born at the expected weight had an obesity rate of only 14.2 percent by grade two.

Of the premature infants born with high weight for gestational age, 27.8 percent were obese by grade two. 

Those born at the expected weight had an obesity rate of only 14.2 percent. 

Those born below the expected weight had an obesity rate of 28 percent.

- IANS