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Sibling composition impacts childhood obesity risk
Date:7/7/2014

an is the parent's obesity status," notes lead investigator Mark C. Pachucki, PhD, Mongan Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. "This association is independent of a host of socioeconomic and demographic attributes, health behaviors, and overall health status." Dr. Pachucki began this research collaboration when he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, San Francisco.

The data also uncovered a link between gender and obesity risk. In homes with only one child, girls were less likely to be obese than their male counterparts. Gender was also an important factor for siblings in two-child households. The study suggests that younger children may be particularly susceptible to the influence of an older sibling, especially if that sibling is of the same sex.

"For youngest boys in two-child families, obesity is 11.4 times more likely with a male older sibling," write the authors. "If that younger boy's elder sibling is a girl, the boy is 6.6 times more likely to be obese. In two-child families, youngest-girl obesity is 8.6 times more likely with a female older sibling and is not significantly more likely if the older sibling is male. Thus, for younger children, there is a discernible gender correlation in sibling obesity status: having an obese elder same-gender sibling is associated with an increased likelihood of the younger child being obese."

Of course, exercise and food consumption play key roles in the prevention of obesity, and investigators found that only children were less likely to engage in physical activity and more likely to eat fast food than their counterparts with brothers and sisters. Curiously, however, the data also showed that having a highly active older sibling raised the obesity risk for the younger sibling. "Younger siblings with more vigorous physical activity are significantly less likely
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Contact: Angela J. Beck
ajpmmedia@elsevier.com
734-764-8775
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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