Mothers play a huge role in ensuring their children follow a healthy lifestyle and have a lower risk of developing obesity. A new study published by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the US, suggests that risk of obesity was lowest among children whose mothers maintained a healthy weight, exercised regularly, did not smoke, ate a healthy diet, and were light to moderate drinkers.
Obesity in childhood is a serious problem and is linked to a higher risk of several disorders, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as premature death in adulthood.
Children’s obesity and future health is also linked to the mother and father’s health during and after pregnancy. A 2018 study by the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research shows that maternal overweight and hyperglycemia or high blood sugar are linked to the earlier onset of puberty in girls, which can lead to multiple adverse health developments in adulthood. A 2018 study by the University of Southampton shows that smoking, high alcohol and caffeine intake, diet, obesity and malnutrition in either or both parents, potentially increases a child’s lifelong risk of heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, immune and neurological diseases.
The findings, published in The BMJ, also mention that if mothers and their children stuck to a healthy lifestyle, it could result in an even further reduction in the risk of childhood obesity.
For this study, the researchers examined the medical history and lifestyle characteristics of 24,289 children aged 9-14 years who were born to 16,945 women. The researchers found that the risk of obesity was 56% lower in children of women with a healthy body weight than children of mothers in other BMI categories. Compared with offspring of women who were current smokers, children of non-smoking mothers had 31% lower risk of obesity.
Children of mothers who exercised for the recommended 150 minutes or more a week — and who were light to moderate drinkers (1-2 small glasses of wine or a pint of standard strength beer a day) — also had a lower risk of obesity compared with children of mothers who did not exercise and who did not drink alcohol.
Children of mothers who followed all five low risk lifestyle factors (a high quality diet, normal body weight, regular physical activities, light to moderate intake of alcohol, and non-smoking) had a 75% lower risk of developing obesity, compared with offspring of women who did not meet any of the low risk lifestyle factors.