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Dads Have Big Influence on Their Childrens Weight

fathers and children's weight loss

Men - the little ones are watching. You may not realize it, but you play a vital role in your children developing healthy behaviors that will last into their adulthood.


There have been several studies about the role that mothers have on children eating more healthfully and getting more physical activity. In most households, the women tend to play a larger role in purchasing and preparing food and ensuring a healthy environment.

But that doesn’t mean that dads aren’t important also. Two new studies have recently identified just how big of a part fathers have on their children eventually becoming healthy adults.

Researchers with the University of Guelph have found that young adults who grew up in stable families with quality parental relationships were more likely to have a healthy diet, get more activity, and sleep better. They were also less likely to be obese.

While the influence of a mother was important, it was found to be especially important to young men when their fathers were involved.

"Much of the research examining the influence of parents has typically examined only the mother's influence or has combined information across parents," said Prof. Jess Haines, Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, and lead author of the paper which appeared in the Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

"Our results underscore the importance of examining the influence fathers have on their children and to develop strategies to help fathers support the development of healthy behaviours among their children."

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A second study found an even greater reason for men to take care of their own health for the sake of their children. Obese males – at least in a recent animal study – were found to more often have daughters who were also obese in childhood. These girls later had an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Again, there have been several studies that have assessed the maternal role of obesity in children later developing chronic disease. These latest findings, published online June 24 in Scientific Reports by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers, come from one of the first studies to examine the impact of paternal obesity on future generations' cancer risk.

The researchers state that obesity changes the microRNA signature in both the dad’s sperm and the daughter’s breast tissue, suggesting that men are passing along an increased genetic risk for cancer.

"This study provides evidence that, in animals, a fathers' body weight at the time of conception affects both their daughters' body weight both at birth and in childhood as well as their risk of breast cancer later in life," says the study's lead investigator, Sonia de Assis, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi.

Obviously the data needs to be further researched in humans, but Dr. de Assis says that, "Until we know (more) about this association in men, we should stick to what we all know is good advice: women -- and men -- should eat a balanced diet, keep a healthy body weight and life-style not only for their own benefit but also to give their offspring's the best chances of being healthy."

Journal References:
Jess Haines, Matthew W. Gillman et al. Family functioning and quality of parent-adolescent relationship: cross-sectional associations with adolescent weight-related behaviors and weight status. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2016; 13 (1) DOI:10.1186/s12966-016-0393-7

Camile Castilho Fontelles, Sonia de Assis et al. Paternal overweight is associated with increased breast cancer risk in daughters in a mouse model.Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 28602 DOI: 10.1038/srep28602

Photo Credit: By joel - Flickr: Shower Time!, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons