The Grapevine

5 Habits Mothers Can Follow To Reduce Obesity Risk In Children

Five healthy habits for mothers were identified by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. These habits, when followed by women, could reduce the risk of obesity in their children by 75 percent compared to kids’ mothers who did not follow them.

The paper titled "Maternal adherence to healthy lifestyle practices and risk of obesity in offspring: results from cohort studies of mother-child pairs" was published in the journal BMJ on July 4

"Our study was the first to demonstrate that an overall healthy lifestyle really outweighs any individual healthy lifestyle factors followed by mothers when it comes to lowering the risk of obesity in their children," said senior author Qi Sun, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition.

The research team examined data from over 24,000 children (between 9 and 18 years of age) who were enrolled in the Growing Up Today Study and were born to nearly 17,000 women from the Nurses' Health Study II

Roughly 5 percent of the children developed obesity during a median five-year follow-up period. After analyzing the lifestyle of the mothers, the researchers found maternal obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity were strongly associated with obesity among children and adolescents.

Given these results, five major habits were identified and recommended for mothers. When both the mother and the child followed these habits, the risk of obesity experienced the greatest drop — 82 percent lower compared to mothers and children who did not follow them.  

1. Eating a healthy diet

It is not only important to consume enough nutrients but also avoid added sugar and saturated fat as much as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends serving the right portion size and drinking enough water to encourage healthy eating habits in the family.

2. Exercising regularly 

Guidelines recommended healthy adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. Since children imitate adult routines, performing physical activity on a daily basis can also influence them to reduce sedentary behavior.

3. Maintaining a healthy body weight

Among mothers who maintained a healthy BMI — between 18.5 and 24.9 — their children had a 56 percent lower risk of obesity compared to children whose mothers were outside the healthy range.

4. Drinking alcohol in moderation

When assessing alcohol consumption, the risk of obesity was found to be lower among children whose mothers consumed low or moderate levels of alcohol compared to kids of women who did not drink. Further research is needed as very few mothers in the study were heavy drinkers.

5. Avoiding smoking

Among mothers who did not smoke, children had a 31 percent lower risk of becoming obese compared to those whose mothers smoked. Numerous studies have shown parental smoking, specifically by the mother during pregnancy, can increase the risk of childhood obesity.

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