To an extent, it should go without saying that mom and dad’s eating and exercise regimens may rub off on their offspring. However, a pair of new studies detail some specifics as to how parents’ lifestyles may influence their child’s chances of developing obesity.
The first – put together by analysts at Washington State University – related how a mother’s attitude towards family mealtime can correspond to how much and what kinds of food her children eat.
“The problem is no longer food scarcity, but too much food,” said primary researcher Halley Morrison, who completed this work for her honors thesis. “This is especially true when kids are so young their environment is primarily based on what their parents are doing.”
With the aid of WSU chair of the Department of Human Development, Tom Power, Morrison looked at almost 225 surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Service Children’s Nutrition Research Center. The survey participants were black and Latino Head Start students and their caregivers. The results showed that moms with emotionally-based appetites – that is, they ate in response to stress or other feelings – or were especially susceptible to the sensory pleasures of certain foods tended to raise kids who ate a significant amount. This is compared to moms who forced their children to eat everything on their dinner plate, whose offspring tended to be more finicky about what they consumed.
Obese dads may alter children’s DNA
Meanwhile, in an examination of how men’s health can influence their children’s risk for developing numerous ongoing conditions, a study from Duke University Medical Center shows that infants whose fathers were obese were more likely to have certain preventive DNA genes “turned off,” according to researchers.
“Our genes are able to adapt to our environment. However, we adjust in a way that may be problematic later,” said Cathrine Hoyo, Ph.D., M.P.H., the primary author of the research.
Hoyo and her associates looked at the umbilical cords of almost 80 young children from parents participating in Duke’s Newborn Epigenetics Study. It was shown that the IGF2 gene – which is linked to a reduced chance of developing certain cancers – was much more likely to be working at its optimal capacity in infants whose fathers had healthy weight, as compared to obese fathers.
It is suspected that this gene may be affected by conditions such as obesity, although researchers say further studies would be needed to confirm this.