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The Obesity Epidemic Continues

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

The obesity epidemic continues with no end in sight. It is one of our major public health problems and the ongoing health care concerns of patients with obesity are well known. There have been many different studies looking for a biologic basis for obesity. There is a new study just released from the International Journal of Obesity that suggests that there is behavioral link for obesity.

In the study 226 families, both children and their parents were followed over three years with serial height and weight measurements. The results showed that obese mothers were 10 times more likely to have obese daughters, while obese fathers had a six-fold chance of having an obese son. In both cases, children of the opposite sex were not affected. Researchers therefore believe that the link for obesity may be behavioral rather than genetic. It would be very unusual to have genetics influence children only along gender lines. Rather, it seems that there may some form of “behavioral sympathy” related to becoming overweight. It seems that daughters copy lifestyles of their mothers, and sons their fathers. Looking further, researchers noted that eight in 10 obese adults were not severely overweight or obese when they themselves were children. In other words, the parents are passing their eating habits and behaviors on to their children, which brings us back to “modeling behavior”.

I bring up the discussion of eating habits and nutrition when children are beginning their first table foods. Parents want to feed their children healthy foods, but they also worry if their child will not eat what the parent has prepared. Starting from the first foods the “notion” of eating healthy needs to be positively re-enforced. One way to do this is by preparing meals together which can teach cooking skills along with making healthy food choices. The idea that our children are going to like everything that we make, or clean their plates is obsolete. I think that our job as parents is to provide good food choices, a happy family mealtime and to be models of healthy eating. With this should come daily exercise. This study seems to confirm that it may be nurture, not nature that is contributing to the worldwide obesity problem.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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