A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points implies that having two overweight parents substantially raises a child’s risk of becoming obese. More than ever, an overweight mother seems to play a particularly important role.
The results are based on a five-year study of more than 4,000 families in the United Kingdom who took part in an annual national health survey. A study nurse measured each participant’s weight and height, and parents and children were classified as normal-weight, overweight, obese or severely obese based on their body mass index.
Researchers found that among more than 7,000 2- to 15-year-olds, those with two obese parents were 12 times more likely to be obese than children with two normal-weight parents.
In the most fascinating part of the study, weight of both mother and father were connected to children’s risk of being obese. Among children with an obese father, 12 percent were obese themselves, with just 4 percent of those with normal-weight fathers. Of children with an obese mother, 14 percent were obese, compared with 3 percent of kids with a normal-weight mother.
Researchers aren’t certain as to why having an obese mother is so much more indicative of weight problems in children, but speculate that it may be related to the mother’s role in planning the family’s diet. Parents who are obese should be aware of their children’s increased risk and work to encourage healthy eating and regular exercise. That includes improving their own lifestyle habits so they can serve as a role model for their kids, making sure that their children are active and eating a healthy, well balanced diet.