Parental Size Can Spell Health Trouble for Kids

Study finds greater risks for children of short mothers and overweight fathers

FRIDAY, Dec. 5, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- An overweight father and a short mother are more likely to have underweight babies who later become overweight adults, claims a British study in the new issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The study also found the combination of low birth weight and major weight gain later in life can put these children at a high risk of poor lifetime health, with problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Researchers tracked 7,000 people born in England, Scotland and Wales during one week in March 1958. The study subjects were checked at ages 7, 11, 16, 23 and 33.

People in the group at high risk for poor health were shorter by the age of 7 (by more than 1 centimeter in boys and nearly 2 centimeters in girls) than their lower-risk peers. By the time they reached 33, the people in the high-risk group were an average of 3 centimeters shorter.

The study also found those in the high-risk group started to gain excess weight in childhood after the age of 7 and continued to gain more weight more quickly than their peers. These people were more likely to have shorter mothers and heavier fathers, to live in working class families, and to have mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

The high risk of poor lifetime health in children increased by about 7 percent for every unit increase in the father's body mass index (BMI), which is an indicator of appropriate weight for height. That risk declined by about 5 percent for every 1 centimeter increase in the mother's height.

Short stature in mothers may reflect unfavorable life circumstances. The detrimental effects of those poor life circumstances may constrain the growth of a mother's unborn children, the authors suggest.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about childhood obesity.

SOURCE: BMJ Specialist Journals, news release, Dec. 3, 2003
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