Obesity Patterns Link Parents, Children

Obesity is driven by a number of factors, from eating behaviors to socio-economic status. Now, a new study shows a link between obese parents and children of the same gender, and has scientists scratching their heads about the role that DNA plays in determining a person’s weight.

hispanic mom with overweight daughter_jpgThey say insanity is a disease that you catch from your children. On the other hand, evidence suggests that obesity may be a disease that kids can catch from their parents. This from a study of more than 200 families conducted by the UK’s Peninsula Medical School, which suggests a link between obese moms and their obese daughters, and likewise between obese fathers and sons.

In fact, the data shows that an obese mother is 10 times more likely to have an obese daughter, and that that an obese father is six times more likely to have an obese son. Oddly, children of the opposite sex were not affected – that is, most obese moms in the study had normal-weight sons, and likewise for obese dads and their daughters.

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While the link itself is puzzling, the researchers are convinced that that it’s behavioral, not genetic. After all, if the parents’ DNA were the cause, the effects wouldn’t follow a mother-daughter and father-son pattern.

This also turns the idea that obese children become obese adults on its head. The researchers point out that some 80 percent of obese adults were not severely overweight when they were children. The conclusion is that the things that obese parents say and do somehow “program” their children for obesity as children copy the behavioral and lifestyle habits of their parents.

In other words, the researchers think that as they grow up, kids of obese parents unconsciously adopt the negative eating and activity habits of Mom and Dad, leading to obesity in their own adult lives.

If this is true, parents can nip the problem in the bud. Researchers point out as an example the Healthy Start program introduced this year in the UK, which offers pregnant women vouchers good for the purchase of healthy food. They advise that a focus on changing adult behavior is a better policy for preventing obesity in children and the adults they become.

One Response

  1. TheQG

    “I went to Arbys today for lunch (I never claimed to be a saint). I sat down in my booth with my Market Fresh Turkey Sandwich & a Sweet Tea. After unwrapping it I noticed a woman, barely able to fit into her booth, sitting down to a tray full of food. Fried Potato Bites, Mozarella Sticks, Curly Fries (all being dipped in Ranch Dressing), a Beef & Cheddar Sandwich and a Vanilla Milkshake. Watching her eat her meal was like watching someone slowly commit suicide and enjoy every minute of it. It’s like a drug addict.