According to a new study published in the journal, Obesity, overweight kids lose weight when their parents try to lose weight. About 80 overweight or obese children and their parents were studied and found that when the parents lost a unit in their body mass index (BMI) their children lost a quarter of the unit. This loss is significant considering the body weight of the children, says Kerri N. Boutelle, PhD, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at University of California-San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital, also in San Diego.
The rate of childhood obesity has increased considerably in the U.S. since 1970 and now one in three children are either overweight or obese. As a result of this, there is an increase of many obesity-related health issues, normally seen in adults, are now being diagnosed at a young age. Boutelle and colleagues were looking at different factors that influence childhood obesity and the factors that may be helpful in controlling it. The factors include parent’s weight loss, diet, and parenting style such as setting limits on behavior.
The families taking part in the study were divided into two groups. In one of the groups the parents and children attended separate weight loss program which included dietary changes, exercise, behavioral change skills and parenting skills. In the second group only the parents attended the weight loss program. Boutelle reports that parental weight loss was the only thing associated with the loss of weight in children.
In the first group, the average BMI was obese but all the parents were not overweight. “If all the parents were overweight the results would have been more dramatic." says Boutelle. “Children look up to their parents and telling the child to lose the extra pounds without doing themselves may not have results," adds Boutelle. She suggests that parents should ‘walk the talk’ to have good results.
Nazrat Mirza, MD, a pediatrician at the Obesity Institute at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C, remarks that the findings of the study confirms the role of family in controlling childhood obesity and sustainable results can be seen only if there are substantial changes in the home environment. Many studies have shown that there is a trickledown effect on children when parents are motivated to lose weight. According to Mirza, since the activity levels and diet are decided by the parents, changes need to take place there for the children to follow.
Steven Lipshultz, MD pediatric cardiologist, professor and chairman of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, remarks that there are many children who are risk of heart disease because of their weight. These children may not make an effort to lose extra weight or maintain a healthy change in the life style unless the parents are involved. He adds that only 15% of the children take the right efforts and they should be included in a 12 week program where in they meet three times a week to keep them on the track to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. According to Lipshultz, this study confirms a good common sense.
- Overweight kids lose weight when their parents try to lose weight.