Lack of paternal information on birth certificate may increase a child's obesity risk

July 13, 2016

A new study by a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-led research team finds an association between the lack of paternal information on infants' birth certificates and increases in several risk factors for childhood obesity. The report being published online in BMC Public Health is among the first to investigate the influence of paternal factors on a child's risk of obesity.

"Most studies of familial influences on childhood obesity outcomes have focused on maternal factors," says Erika R. Cheng, PhD, MPA, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, lead author of the report. "We know that children from single-parent homes are more likely to have obesity, and we also know that women deliver healthier babies when fathers are engaged during the pregnancy. Some research also suggests that fathers play an important role in the feeding of their infants, yet there are very few studies on fathers' feeding practices compared to those examining mothers' practices. All these suggest that fathers can influence their children's obesity risk in ways that are unique."

While there is no way of knowing the significance of missing paternal information on specific birth certificates, Cheng notes that it might indicate a lack of a father's involvement - personal and/or financial - in the child's care. The study took advantage of a new Massachusetts database that links electronic health record information for children seen at 14 local health centers with data from their birth certificates. That data includes factors such as a mother's use of prenatal care, whether she smoked or used alcohol during pregnancy, any complications of pregnancy, and the child's birthweight and Apgar score, a standard measure of newborn health.

Among more than 200,000 children whose health information could be linked to birth-certificate data, almost 16 percent of certificates indicated the mothers were unmarried, and 6 percent of all certificates had no paternal information. Certificates lacking paternal information were more common among children born to women who were young (93 percent) or African American (51 percent). The rate of maternal smoking during pregnancy was five times higher for this group than it was for children with paternal information on their birth certificates, and the initiation of breastfeeding was 71 percent lower. While the birthweights of such children were likely to be lower, the chance of obesity-risk-associated growth measurements during the first two years of life was significantly higher. Obesity-risk-related outcomes - both prenatal and infant - were significantly better for the pregnancies of unmarried mothers with paternal information on certificates and best for pregnancies involving married women.

Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, chief of General Pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and senior author of the report, says, "Our findings - that the mothers of children with absent fathers had higher rates of smoking during pregnancy, lower rates of breastfeeding initiation, and delivered infants with lower birthweights - suggest that the lack of paternal involvement is a potentially modifiable risk factor for childhood obesity. More research is needed to identify the mechanisms by which an absence of paternal birth certificate data increases the risk of poor pregnancy and infant health outcomes. Identifying the biological and social pathways by which fathers can influence their children's obesity rates could help refine prevention and intervention efforts."
-end-
Additional co-authors of the BMC Public Health report are Summer Sherburn Hawkins, PhD, Boston College School of Social Work; and Sheryl Rifas-Shiman, MPH, and Matthew Gilman, MD, SM, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. Support for the study includes National Research Service Award institutional training grant T32-HD075727. Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $800 million and major research centers in HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, photomedicine and transplantation biology. The MGH topped the 2015 Nature Index list of health care organizations publishing in leading scientific journals, earned the prestigious 2015 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service and returned to the number one spot on the 2015-16 U.S. News & World Report list of "America's Best Hospitals."

Massachusetts General Hospital

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.