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Childhood Obesity Not Genetic Says Study

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Childhood Obesity and Genetics

Results of a new study show that behavior learned from parents of the same sex may be responsible for childhood obesity rather than genetics. According to the International Journal of Obesity mothers who struggle with weight are more likely to have daughters who become obese. The same holds true for father and son. Childhood obesity does not seem to be genetic, but rather the result of influence from the parent of the same sex.

The study authors says the findings are “exciting” - understanding that childhood obesity is not genetic means taking a close look at treating parents, and is an opportunity to find a cure for the obesity epidemic. Combating obesity in children who are likely to become obese adults should be more easily accomplished by helping mom or dad recognize behaviors that influence their children toward becoming obese.

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According to study director Terry Wilkin, "These findings could turn our thinking on childhood obesity dramatically on its head. Money and resources have focused on children over the past decade in the belief that obese children become obese adults, and that prevention of obesity in children will solve the problem in adulthood”. Wilkin says we”will need to focus on changing the behaviour of the adult if we want to combat obesity in the child.”

The research showing that childhood obesity is not genetic, but is influenced by parents of the same sex comes from the EarlyBird Diabetes Study. When researchers looked at obesity rates between mothers who are overweight and their sons, and fathers with obesity and their daughters, they did not find a pattern supporting the role of genes as a cause for childhood obesity. Terry Wilkin explains, "Any genetic link between obese parents and their children would be indiscriminate of gender.

The study authors concluded, “Childhood obesity today seems to be largely confined to those whose same-sex parents are obese”, after looking at 226 parents and one child. The researchers found significant correlation between mothers who were overweight, but not their sons. The same findings held true for obesity risk of sons whose father’s were overweight. The findings strongly suggest that childhood obesity is influenced by behavior of the parent of the same-sex.

Reference: International Journal of Obesity