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Now, a test that reveals if your child will be fat

Parents are being offered a way to predict the chances of their newborn baby becoming obese.

The online prediction is based on factors including the baby's birth weight, the body mass index (BMI) of its parents, and the number of people in the household.

Also taken into account are the mother's professional status and whether she smoked during pregnancy.

Researchers hope the formula will help identify infants at high risk of obesity, and assist families.

Childhood obesity is a leading cause of early type 2 diabetes and heart and circulatory disease, which is becoming more common in developed countries.

The formula uses data from a Finnish study set up in 1986 which followed the fortunes of 4,000 children.

Scientists found that while genetic profiles were unreliable, non-genetic information readily available at birth could predict which children would become obese.

Further tests in Italy and the US confirmed that the approach worked.

"This test takes very little time, it doesn't require any lab tests and it doesn't cost anything," said lead researcher Professor Philippe Froguel, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.

"All the data we use are well-known risk factors for childhood obesity, but this is the first time they have been used together to predict from the time of birth the likelihood of a child becoming obese."

The 20pc of children predicted to have the highest risk at birth make up 80pc of obese children, say the researchers. Anyone can access the child obesity risk calculator online at http://files-good.ibl.fr/ childhood-obesity/.

The researchers suggest that families with high-risk infants could benefit from dietician and psychology services.

"Once a young child becomes obese, it's difficult for them to lose weight, so prevention is the best strategy, and it has to begin as early as possible," said Prof Froguel.

"Unfortunately, public prevention campaigns have been rather ineffective at preventing obesity in school-age children. Teaching parents about the dangers of over-feeding and bad nutritional habits at a young age would be much more effective."