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Mother's lifestyle influences child's obesity risk

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A mother’s example could be instrumental in a child maintaining a healthy weight, suggests new research published in The BMJ.

In a study of nearly 25,000 children, those whose mothers adhered to five healthy lifestyle factors carried a 75 percent lower risk of obesity than children whose mothers had none of those habits. The factors included a body mass index (BMI) below 25, a high-quality diet, regular exercise, no smoking and low alcohol consumption.

“Our findings highlight the potentially critical role of maternal lifestyle choices in the etiology of childhood obesity and lend support to family or parent based intervention strategies for reducing childhood obesity risk,” wrote the researchers, including lead author Klodian Dhana, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow with the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dhana and colleagues found the following maternal traits were individually associated with a reduction in the child’s obesity risk:

  • Healthy BMI (56 percent reduction)
  • Moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 2.5 hours per week (21 percent reduction)
  • Not smoking (31 percent reduction)
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation (12 percent reduction)

Interestingly, a mother following a healthy diet wasn’t significantly associated with the child’s obesity risk.

“One potential explanation for our observation of a null association between maternal diet and childhood obesity is that children’s energy intake might not be exclusively from meals prepared at home because children’s diet is influenced by multiple factors including school and neighborhood food environments and peer influences,” wrote the authors, who nevertheless said this finding was unexpected.

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