Early growth spurts could cause obesity

Issued: Tue, 08 Apr 2008 16:27:00 BST

Researchers have found that growth spurts in early childhood could permanently affect an individual’s rate of metabolism, which is believed to be linked to obesity.

In a report to be published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B researchers at the University of Glasgow reveal that growth spurts in early life can cause a metabolic rate in adults 20% faster than if the individual had grown more steadily.

This is the first time a study has revealed that early growth patterns could cause long term differences in metabolic rate.

Researchers compared the metabolic rates of Zebra Finches who had been fed a regular protein diet with finches who had been switched from a low to high protein diet halfway through their period of growth.

Professor Neil Metcalfe from the University of Glasgow said: “It seems that the improvement in diet early in life caused a change in metabolism as well as a short-lived spurt in growth. The metabolic difference might be produced by a change in the size or functioning of key organs in the body, which would have long-term consequences.

“Metabolism has long been believed to affect the likelihood of obesity in humans. It is now becoming increasingly clear that our risk of becoming obese or getting various metabolic or cardiovascular diseases when we are adults is linked to our earliest years.”

The study conducted by researchers in the University of Glasgow’s Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences and Veterinary School was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Notes to editors

To see a full copy of the report or for more information please contact Kate Richardson in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3683 or email K.Richardson@admin.gla.ac.uk

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