Healthy moms lower risk of obese kids

Dr Dilip Dhupelia is the president of the Australian Medical Association Queensland

Dr Dilip Dhupelia is the president of the Australian Medical Association Queensland

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.

The children who belong to the age group less than 19 are having body mass index defined as obese. The results were published in the British Medical Journal. Since the mothers in this study were all female nurses, they tend to be a healthy and educated population, and their kids are significantly less likely to be obese than the rest of the population in general. However, mothers needed first to help a little bit more than they usually do.

A new study is predicting two million New Zealanders could be considered clinically obese in the next 20 years.

The risk of obesity in offspring decreased with each additional lifestyle factor in mothers, such that children of women who followed three low-risk behaviors (healthy diet, physical activity, and light to moderate alcohol consumption) were 23 percent less likely to be obese, compared with children whose mothers did not have any low-risk factor.

The findings show that risk was lowest among children whose mothers maintained a healthy weight, exercised regularly, did not smoke, ate a healthy diet, and were light to moderate drinkers.

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

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The scientists analyzed the data of about 24,000 children aged 9 to 18.

"While the study's outcome might seem obvious, it's significant because childhood obesity is a growing problem in Australia and around the world - and that it indicates modifiable lifestyle and diet factors are to blame rather than genetics (or, to quote the paper, "'nurture" carries more weight than "nature' in driving the current pandemic of obesity").

As the part of the study, nurses have to fill up the answers to certain questions regarding the lifestyle, habits, alcohol consumption, smoking, health, diet and exercise patterns. This percentage is about 1 in every 5 children. It also relied on self-reported data about mums' habits, and self-reported data is notoriously unreliable - though the researchers nevertheless emphasised the importance of mothers in preventing children from becoming obese.

High BMI had overtaken tobacco as the "greatest contributor to health loss" in New Zealand, he said. During a 5-year follow-up period, about 5.3% of the children developed obesity. Healthcare costs associated with treating overweight and obesity-related conditions in New Zealand were estimated to be NZ$624 million in 2006, representing 4.4 per cent of all healthcare spending.

He and Professor Abbott considered potential influences on obesity from the data of 76,294 adult New Zealanders, including the effects of an aging population and cohort effects reflecting the increased exposure of younger New Zealanders to a high-obesity environment during critical phases of childhood development, to see whether these would explain the trends in population BMI.

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