Published: Sat, July 07, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Two million New Zealanders will be obese by the 2030s

Two million New Zealanders will be obese by the 2030s

In a paper titled Association between maternal adherence to healthy lifestyle practices and risk of obesity in offspring, researchers examined the connection between overall maternal lifestyle and the risk of obesity in children.

In a country where about 1 out of 5 children under 19 years old are obese - according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention -, the experts chose to investigate what was making that number so high. The condition raises the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, as well as stroke and some forms of cancer.

Those mother who follow all the habits could help their children to decrease the chances by 75 percent. While the role of genetics in obesity is widely recognised, a rapid increase in obesity in recent years is more likely to be due to lifestyle changes.

The results showed that 5.3% of the group developed obesity during a median five year follow-up period.

Mothers have a powerful influence over their children's lifestyle choices, but it's unknown whether healthy lifestyle patterns in mothers influence the development of obesity in their children.

24000 Children who were of age 9-18, this data was analyzed by the Researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health.

The U.S.is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, and as such this research could have important implications for how it is tackled. By 2038, the average BMI among Pacific people is projected to exceed that of the general population by 7.1-8.1kg/m2.

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Keeping a healthy body weight: Defined as a body mass index in the healthy range, 18 and above and below 25. Their offspring were on average 12 years of age, and 46% were boys.

The study also found mothers and children who follow healthier lifestyles lower the risk of childhood obesity by 82 percent.

Compared with offspring of women who were current smokers, children of non-smoking mothers had 31% lower risk of obesity. The researchers note that moms who indulge in light to moderate alcohol consumption also help reduce their children's BMI.

In a study involving almost 25,000 children, those whose mothers adhered to five factors comprising a healthy lifestyle - healthy diet, regular exercise, BMI less than 25, non-smoking, and low alcohol consumption - had a 75% lower risk for obesity compared to kids of mothers who didn't adhere to any of these healthy habits (relative risk 0.25, 95% CI 0.14-0.47), found Klodian Dhana, MD, PhD, of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues.

This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and the researchers outline some study limitations.

"Living a healthy lifestyle cannot only help adults to improve their health and reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases, but also can exert health benefits to their offspring", Dr. Qi Sun from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, told Reuters Health by email.

The findings highlight "the potential benefits" of family and parent interventions "to curb the risk of childhood obesity", they added.

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