ATLANTA -

The battle against childhood obesity may begin far sooner than many parents realize.

While kindergartners should be concerned about coloring, experts are growing more and more worried about their weight.  Now, a new study finds a lifelong weight problem can start for a child as early as five years old. 

Emory University researchers looked at the incidence of childhood obesity among more than 7,700 children ages 5 to 14.  They found when children entered kindergarten at 5 years old, 12 percent were obese and another 15 percent were overweight. 

Although some children did slim down as they grew, the results show overweight five year olds were four times as likely as normal-weight children to become obese.

Among children who became obese between the ages of 5 and 14, nearly half had been overweight and 75 percent had been above the 70th percentile for body-mass index when the study began. 

Researchers caution parents should pay close attention to their child's weight, even when they're very young. 

Pediatricians say "baby fat" should not be ignored. 

"A lot of people think that those kids that are overweight at 4 or 5 just have baby fat and that they'll get taller and grow out of it, but this study is telling us that that is not going to happen. That they have a high risk of being obese when they're older," said Dr. Sara Lappe from Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital.

If you're concerned about your child's weight, experts recommend discussing it with your child's pediatrician, preferably not in front of your child.