Family Influences Weight

Obese parents increase risk that children will be overweight

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FRIDAY, July 9, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Children with obese parents have the greatest risk of being overweight, says a Stanford University School of Medicine study in the July issue of Pediatrics.

The study of 150 children from birth to age 5 found 64 percent of the children with obese parents became overweight, compared with 16 percent of children with normal-weight parents.

"The findings of this study suggest that at-risk children may be identifiable in the first few years of life," Dr. W. Stewart Agras, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said in a prepared statement.

Identifying risk factors that result in early childhood obesity may help researchers to develop ways to prevent it.

The study also found a child's temperament played a role: 46 percent of children with a sensitive disposition and an overweight parent became overweight, compared with 19 percent of children who didn't have a sensitive disposition. The sensitive disposition/overweight connection was also evident in children with normal-weight parents.

It's possible that parents with emotional children use food to reduce the frequency of tantrums, Agras said.

"It's probably not a good idea to use food as a calmer. If we can identify kids with difficult temperaments, we could educate parents not to use food as a reward," Agras said.

Low parental concern about their child's thinness and less sleep for children were also significant risk factors for overweight children, the study found.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about childhood obesity.

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, July 8, 2004

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