Obesity risk increases in children who don't have siblings than who have a younger brother or sister, revealed a new study.
The University of Michigan research, which included 697 children across the U.S., found that the birth of a sibling, especially when the child was between about 2 and 4 years old, was associated with a healthier body mass index (BMI) by first grade.
‘Having a younger sibling lowers obesity risk than older or no siblings.’
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Senior author Julie Lumeng said that the research suggests that having younger siblings, compared with having older or no siblings, is associated with a lower risk of being overweight. However, they have very little information about how the birth of a sibling may shape obesity risk during childhood.
Lumeng added that this study is believed to be the first to track subsequent increases in BMI after a child becomes a big brother or sister.
One possible explanation, the authors speculate, could be that parents may change the way they feed their child once a new sibling is born. With children developing long-lasting eating habits at around three years old, changing dietary habits may have a significant impact.
Authors also note that children may engage in more 'active play' or less sedentary time in front of screens once a younger sibling is born, contributing to healthier BMIs.
Lumeng concluded that better understanding the potential connection between a sibling and weight may help health providers and families create new strategies for helping children grow up healthy. The findings are published in Pediatrics.