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Moms could be to blame for childhood obesity, Harvard study suggests

4 min read

Mothers who live a healthier lifestyle, following habits such as a good diet and regular exercise, can decrease the risk of raising an obese child, a study suggests.

The study lead by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found women who followed five healthy habits were 75 percent less likely to have an obese child than women who followed none of the habits.

Researchers analyzed data on 24,289 kids between the ages of 9 to 14 born to 16,945 women who had enrolled in two earlier, larger studies.

They focused on five habits: a high quality diet, regular exercise, a healthy body mass index (BMI), no smoking, and light to moderate alcohol consumption.

Results showed mothers who followed four of the five habits showed a lower risk of obesity among their kids, noting diet did not appear “significantly associated.”

However, mothers who followed all five habits boasted a 75% lower risk for their kids becoming obese than mothers who followed none of those habits.

“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, lead author of the study and assistant professor at Harvard’s Department of Nutrition, in a statement.

The study also found mothers and children who follow healthier lifestyles lower the risk of childhood obesity by 82 percent.

Findings were published on Wednesday in the journal BMJ.

Previous studies have suggested obesity during childhood can lead to living at an unhealthy weight as an adult, raising the risk of heart disease and other ailments. 

A study published in November by the New England Journal of Medicine warned if current obesity trends continue, more than half of children and teens in the U.S. will be obese by age 35.

But it’s not just about moms. Fathers could play a role in whether their kids end up obese. A 2017 study lead by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found dads who were more involved in raising their children lowered their risk for obesity.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

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