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To Fight Childhood Obesity, Moms to the Rescue

07 July 2018

Parents who want their kids to have healthier lifestyles might want to start practicing what they preach. These habits include eating healthy food, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking.

The best thing mothers can do to ensure their kids avoid developing obesity may be to take care of themselves.

Findings were published on Wednesday in the journal BMJ.

The prevalence of obesity in New Zealand had already trebled to 30 per cent between 1977 and 2013, making it the third most obese nation.

In a country where about 1 out of 5 children under 19 years old are obese - according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention -, the experts chose to investigate what was making that number so high. Childhood obesity and even into adolescence can lead to diseases such as heart conditions, fatty liver and type 2 diabetes.

Based on this information, the researchers calculated the risk of obesity for each child, using BMI measurements.

Moms' healthy lifestyles did not necessarily translate into children's healthy lifestyles in this study, but when they did, offspring had an 82 percent lower risk of being obese, compared to when mothers and children had high-risk lifestyles.

It turns out the lifestyle of mothers is significantly connected to whether or not children become obese, as determined by body mass index (BMI), a measurement of height and weight.

Healthy habits were analyzed collectively and individually when it came to their effect on childhood obesity. But the degree to which these behaviors made a difference may still be surprising.

Meanwhile, the offspring of non-smoking mothers had a 31% lower risk of obesity compared to those with smoking mothers.

150 minutes of exercise that is vigorous exercise per week. They eat a high quality diet, determined by high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, healthy fats, and low consumption of sugary beverages, red and processed meat. Finally, they drink light to moderate amounts, quantified as two small glasses of wine or one standard pint of beer a day.

The research was based on data drawn from nearly 25,000 children born to nearly 17,000 mothers who provided health and lifestyle information to two major long-term studies. Data was collected from 24,289 children enrolled in the Growing Up Today Study. The biggest contributing factor was whether or not mothers maintained a healthy weight - children of mothers whose BMI qualified as obese were more than three times as likely to become obese.

Those mother who follow all the habits could help their children to decrease the chances by 75 percent. During a 5-year follow-up period, about 5.3% of the children developed obesity.

"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", told in a statement the lead author of the study and assistant professor at Harvard's Department of Nutrition, Qi Sun.

Still, there are a lot of other questions to answer.

To Fight Childhood Obesity, Moms to the Rescue