A new study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ notes that children of mothers who follow a healthy lifestyle are at lower risk of developing obesity than those whose mothers don’t make those healthy choices.
Findings of the study by the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health 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. If both mothers and their children stuck to a healthy lifestyle this could result in an even further reduction in the risk of childhood obesity, those researchers suggested.
One in five American children and teenagers ages 6 to 19 is obese. Obesity in childhood is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as premature death in adulthood. Researchers noted that previous studies have shown that children’s lifestyle choices are largely influenced by their mothers. It is unknown, however, if healthy lifestyle patterns in mothers during their offspring’s childhood and adolescence influence the development of obesity.
An international team based in Canada and the United States examined medical history and lifestyle characteristics of 24,289 children ages 9 to 14 born to 16,945 women in two US studies, and had participants complete detailed questionnaires about their medical history and lifestyle.
This was an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and researchers did outline some study limitations, such as that participants lifestyle characteristics were based exclusively on self-reports.
Nonetheless, they said their study shows that mothers’ overall healthy lifestyle during the period of their offspring’s childhood and adolescence is associated with a substantially lower risk of obesity in their children.