Mothers play an important role in all aspects of their childrenâ€™s lives, especially their health.
Almost 20 percent of children in the United State are obese and there is a greater focus on strategies to reduce the childhood obesity epidemic. A new study in the British Medical Journal shows that a motherâ€™s lifestyle choices are strongly associated with obesity in their children.
Dr. Klodian Dhana, a post-doctoral researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues studied data from approximately 17,000 nurses and their children.
Researchers assessed the healthy lifestyle behaviors of the mothers. They focused on four characteristics: a healthy weight, adequate exercise, those who do not smoke, and those who consumed alcohol in moderation. In mothers who followed all four behaviors, there was a 75 percent reduction in the risk of obesity in their children compared to mothers who did not follow any of the healthy lifestyle behaviors.
The study emphasizes the important role of a mother in a childâ€™s health. Ultimately, there are many factors involved in a childâ€™s health. One of the limitations of the study is that it shows an association, and specifically not a cause-and-effect relationship, between a motherâ€™s lifestyle and obesity in a child. However, it does emphasize an important role for mothers. It suggests that in addition to focusing public health resources on healthy lifestyle education in children, providing support to mothers to allow them to maintain a healthy lifestyle can also be key.
Anant Mandawat, a graduate of Lakeside High School and Yale Universityâ€™s medical school, is a doctor of internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.