When it comes to children’s weight, mother’s lifestyle habits matter more as compared to their father’s, suggest the results of Norwegian University of Science and Technology study published in BMJ Open.
“Parents have a major impact on their children’s health and lifestyle. Behaviours that lead to obesity are easily transferred from parent to child,” said Marit Næss.
But how do parents’ lifestyle changes affect their children’s body mass index (BMI)? Very differently it turns out, depending on whether it’s the mother or father we are talking about.
Smaller children when mom loses weight If the mother loses weight, it also affects the children. “If mom drops two to six kilos, this can be linked to lower BMI in the kids,” said Kirsti Kvaløy.
The researchers found no significant link if the father loses weight, although it may be possible to read a tendency in the same direction.
The results largely correspond to similar studies in India and Finland, but the Finns found that the heaviest fathers also affected their daughters’ weight.
And the differences between the impacts of the father’s and mother’s lifestyle changes don’t end there.
Less active, bigger children “Mothers whose activity levels drop as their children are growing up are linked to children with higher BMI in adolescence,” says Næss.
If the mother does not stay physically active, the children become bigger across the board. The father’s choices had no significant impact here either. Less active fathers were not linked to higher BMI in their children.
According to Næss and Kvaløy, a lot suggests that moms are still the ones who are primarily responsible for planning activities in the home and perhaps for food choices too, although this study did not examine these issues.
The mother-child link may often revolve around the mother wanting to lose weight. She makes small changes in her diet and habits that involve the whole family.
This notion is reinforced by the fact that the researchers found no corresponding relationship when parents lose a great deal of weight. This kind of weight change is often associated with illness or
more extensive diets that do not involve others in the family.
Education plays a role too The results are quite clear also when taking education level into account. “On average, BMI is lower in families with higher education compared to families with less education,” says Kvaløy.
But maternal weight reduction seems to wield greater influence on children’s BMI in families with higher education.