While it is well known that a child's risk of obesity is greater if he or she has obese family members, whether the type of relationship affects that risk has not been given as much attention. A new report led by an investigator at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital finds that the risk associated with having an obese sibling is more than twice as great as that of having an obese parent, and that risk is even stronger among siblings of the same gender. The study will appear in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and has been released online.
"It's well known that diet and physical activity are key determinants of obesity among both adults and children; and prior research has shown that parents have a direct impact on children's eating habits through shopping and preparing meals and on their exercise by encouraging and facilitating access to activities," says Mark Pachucki, PhD, of the Mongan Institute, corresponding author of the AJPM paper. "I went into this study expecting that, given parents' oversized roles in their children's lives, parental obesity would have a stronger association than a sibling's obesity; but I was wrong."
The paper describes a substudy of the larger Family Health Habits Survey, a nationwide survey of parents that investigated associations between the health of family members and factors such as food purchases and nutrient intake. Of the more than 10,000 participants in the larger survey, almost 2,000 respondents represented families with either one or two children and provided height and weight information for parents and children, making them eligible for the current study. The investigators analyzed information about adults' socio-economic status, demographic background and overall health, along with information about both parent and child levels of physical activity and aspects of their food environment.
In families with only one c
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Massachusetts General Hospital