3 risk factors for childhood obesity
If your child is overweight, a study says that three significant risk factors could explain why—and each one can be controlled by you, the parent.
The study, published last October in the journal Childhood Obesity, identified the risk factors among preschoolers as:
1. Inadequate sleep
2. A parent’s BMI that classifies mom or dad as overweight or obese
3. Parental restriction of a child’s eating to control his or her weight
Researchers examined 22 variables previously identified as predictors of child obesity, but the three previously mentioned stood out the most.
“What’s exciting here is that these risk factors are malleable and provide a road map for developing interventions that can lead to a possible reduction in children’s weight status,” said study co-author Brent McBride. “We should focus on convincing parents to improve their own health status, to change the food environment of the home so that healthy foods are readily available and unhealthy foods are not, and to encourage an early bedtime,”added McBride, a University of Illinois professor of human development and director of the university’s Child Development Laboratory.
Results were compiled from an extensive survey sent to 329 parents and children recruited from child-care programs in east-central Illinois as part of University of Illinois’ STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids Program.
Barbara Fine, registered dietitian at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., also agrees that parents play a critical role in reducing a child’s risk for obesity. “Parents are the role model,” she says. “I do a diet history of what a child eats, and if the child is not yet old enough to respond, the information will come from the parent. A lot of times the parent will say the child is eating what the parent is eating. So if the parent is eating poorly then the child will eat poorly,” Fine explains.
An easy way parents can help shape their children’s eating habits is to give them exposure to better ways of doing things and get them to participate. “Kids at the preschool age can be involved in going to the store, for example. Color is a wonderful way to get them to participate. Have them pick one green thing for dinner so they’re part of the mealtime process,” she recommends, and then select a different color each time you visit the grocery store.
When it comes to sleep, Fine says having a routine is important along with putting kids to bed at a decent hour and getting them up to eat a healthy breakfast. “Having a schedule helps and having good play time in between meals and snacks is beneficial as well,” Fine says.
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