Mothers who follow five healthy habits may reduce risk of obesity in children

July 04, 2018

Boston, MA - Children and adolescents whose mothers follow five healthy habits--eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, drinking alcohol in moderation, and not smoking--are 75% less likely to become obese when compared with children of mothers who did not follow any such habits, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. When both mother and child adhered to these habits, the risk of obesity was 82% lower compared with mother and children who did not.

The study will be published online in BMJ on July 4, 2018.

"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 in the U.S aged 6-19 have obesity, putting them at risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic conditions later in life. While it is known that genetics play a role in obesity, the rapid increase of the disease in recent years is likely due to changes in lifestyle and diet, indicating that "nurture" more than "nature" is fueling the current obesity epidemic.

For this study, researchers 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 examined data from 24,289 children enrolled in the Growing Up Today Study who were born to 16,945 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II.

The researchers found that 1,282 of the children, or 5.3%, developed obesity during a median five-year follow-up period. Maternal obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity were strongly associated with obesity among children and adolescents.

While the greatest drop in obesity risk was seen when mothers and children followed healthy lifestyle habits, many of the healthy habits had a noticeable impact on the risk of childhood obesity when assessed individually. Children of women who maintained a healthy body weight (body mass index 18.5-24.9) had a 56% lower risk of obesity compared with children of women who did not maintain a healthy weight, while children of mothers who did not smoke had a 31% lower risk of obesity compared with children of mothers who smoked.

The risk of obesity was also lower among children of mothers who consumed low or moderate levels of alcohol compared with children of mothers who abstained from alcohol. Because so few mothers in the Nurses' Health Study II were considered heavy drinkers, the researchers could not determine the association between heavy use of alcohol had the risk of obesity in children.

To the surprise of the researchers, mothers' dietary patterns were not associated with obesity in their children, possibly because children's diets are influenced by many factors, including school lunches and available food options in their neighborhoods.

The findings of this study highlight the crucial role a mother's lifestyle choices can have on their children's health and bolster support for family- or parent-based intervention strategies for reducing childhood obesity risk.
-end-
Other Harvard Chan School study authors included Klodian Dhana, Gang Liu, and Jorge E. Chavarro.

Funding for this study came from grants UM1-CA176726, P30-DK046200, U54-CA155626, T32-DK007703-16, HD066963, HL096905, DK084001, OH009803, and MH087786 from the National Institutes of Health. Sun is supported by NIH grants, ES021372, ES022981, and HL34594.

"Maternal adherence to healthy lifestyle practices and risk of obesity in offspring: results from cohort studies of mother-child pairs," Klodian Dhana, Jess Haines, Gang Liu, Cuilin Zhang, Xiaobin Wang, Alison E. Field, Jorge E. Chavarro, Qi Sun, BMJ, online July 4, 2018, doi: 10.1136/bmj.k2486

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.