Nightly News   |  February 02, 2014

Key to Obesity Begins in Youth

A study shows children’s risk for obesity starts very early in life.

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>>> we're back with health news and a new warning tonight for the parents of young children to be especially mindful of their weight. it turns out the risk of obesity later in life starts at an even earlier age than experts once believed. we get that story tonight from nbc's rehema ellis.

>> reporter: in kindergarten, children learn their abcs. experts think it's also a crucial time to learn a healthy lifestyle. in a new report, emery researchers followed more than 7,700 children starting in kindergarten from 1998 to 2007 . they found children who were large at birth and overweight by kindergarten were four times as likely as normal weight children to become obese by the eighth grade or around 14 years old.

>> the first five years of life are really, really important. so, as parents, as clinicians, as a society, really focus on those first five years on ensuring healthy nutrition, ensuring healthy lifestyles.

>> reporter: at the lewis household, they're making changes.

>> i just want them to learn to be healthy, because diabetes runs in my family and heart disease run in my family.

>> reporter: andrea lewis says now her family tries to eat healthier. plus, she's enrolled her 8-year-old and 5-year-old in the children's healthy lifestyle program at duke university .

>> you get to have fun with your friends and ride your bike all the time.

>> reporter: doctors say parents have to be patient.

>> and in the past you had higher blood pressures.

>> reporter: is it hardest on children who are 5 or 6 or harder when they become 13 and 14?

>> as the child gets older it's harder to monitor what they're eating and help them make healthy choices. you want to start at the he very beginning when they're really young.

>> reporter: the message, parents can't assume a heavy child will grow out of it. they need help early and from the whole family. rehema ellis, nbc news, new york.