compared with children of mothers who did not follow any such lifestyle practices.
‘Mothers who follow five healthy lifestyle habits may reduce the risk of childhood obesity. Healthy practices such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining healthy body weight, drinking moderate levels of alcohol and not smoking can lower the risk of obesity in children.’
"Our study was the first to demonstrate that an overall healthy lifestyle really outweighs any individual healthy lifestyle factors followed by mothers when it comes to lowering the risk of obesity in their children," said Qi Sun, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and senior author of the study.
One in five children (aged 6-19 ) in the U.S is found to have obesity, placing them at higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic conditions later in life.
It is known that genetics play a role in the development of obesity. The rapid increase of the disease in recent years is likely due to changes in lifestyle and diet
, pointing that 'nurture'
more than 'nature'
is fueling the current obesity epidemic.
Details of the Study
For this study, the research team mainly focused on the association between a mother's lifestyle and the risk of obesity among their children and adolescents between 9 and 18 years of age. They analyzed data from 24,289 children registered in the Growing Up Today Study who were born to 16,945 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II.
Findings of the Study
During a median five-year follow-up period, the research team found that 1,282 of the children (5.3%) developed obesity. Maternal obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking were strongly associated with obesity among children and adolescents.
The greatest drop in obesity risk was observed when mothers and children followed healthy lifestyle habits. When assessed individually, many of the healthy habits had a remarkable impact on the risk of childhood obesity.
Children of mothers who
- maintained a healthy body weight (body mass index 18.5-24.9) had a 56 percent lower risk of obesity compared with children of mothers who did not maintain a healthy weight
- did not smoke had a 31 percent lower risk of obesity compared with children of women who smoked
- consumed low or moderate levels of alcohol also had a lower risk of obesity compared with children of mothers who declined from alcohol
Few mothers in the Nurses' Health Study II were considered to be heavy drinkers, and the research team could not determine the association between heavy use of alcohol had the risk of obesity in children.
The research team were surprised to discover that mothers' dietary patterns were not linked to obesity in their children, maybe the children's diets are influenced by many factors such as school lunches and available food choices in their neighborhoods.
The findings of this study mainly highlight the vital role a mother's lifestyle choices can influence their child's health and offer support for a family or parent-based intervention strategies for reducing childhood obesity risk.