Single children have more than double the risk of being overweight or obese as compared to those with siblings, says a new study.
In a pan-European analysis, covering Italy, Estonia, Cyprus, Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, Germany and Spain, researchers studied the health effects of diet, lifestyle and obesity in children aged 2 to 9 years.
AdvertisementThe study, involving 12,720 children and conducted under the framework of the European research project, "Identification and prevention of Dietary and lifestyle-induced health Effects In Children and infants (IDEFICS)", found that children without siblings have 50 percent greater risk of obesity, compared to their counterparts with siblings.
This fact was influenced by other factors, such as birth weight, gender and parental weight.
Body Mass Index (BMI) of the children was calculated and categorized according to the criteria of International Obesity Task Force. Demographic data and socioeconomic variables were assessed based on the parental questionnaire that included questions pertaining to children's dietary habits, pattern of television viewing and the time spent in playing outdoor games.
According to Monica Hunsberger, a researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy in the University of Gothenburg, and the lead researcher in the study, single children tend to play outdoors less often, live in medium level educated households, and are more likely to watch television programs in their bedrooms. The study also found that the longer the child remained a singleton, the stronger was the association with overweight.
It appears from the study that there is a significant correlation between siblings and obesity and that being a child without siblings appears to be a risk factor by itself.
To understand the influence of individual family environment, and family structure, on children's obesity and state of health, a follow up study is to be undertaken.
The present study was published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes.