Overweight children as young as three are showing signs they will develop heart disease, new research from Otago University has found.
The findings are the latest from the Dunedin longitudinal study which has tracked the lives of 1000 people born in the city in 1972 and 1973.
Researchers looked at blood vessel function in the heaviest 15 percent of three-year-olds and could predict those likely to have poor function 35 years later - a strong indicator of death from heart attack or cardiovascular disease.
Professor Michael Williams, the lead author of the research, said the findings suggested obesity prevention measures should start from birth, rather than the current practice of stepping in during childhood or early adolescence.
There were many factors that could lead to the 3-year-old being at risk, including genetic inheritance, low birth weight, and environmental factors like diet or exercise.
Innovative interventions needed to be considered - such as looking at sleep patterns after new research, which found that children who slept better were less likely to become obese, he said.
Genes should also be factored in more, including ways to help children rise above their predispositions for obesity and heart disease, Mr Williams said.