Family Matters in Health and Weight

Families play an important role in health and weight, well beyond the fundamental starting point of biological susceptibility to obesity they share. Two recent studies provide further understanding to the role parents and siblings play.

Jason Van Allen and colleagues found that parent motivation appears play a valuable role in improving the weight status of preschoolers. In a randomized controlled trial of a family-based obesity intervention, they collected parental motivation data. They found that parents whose motivation increased during the trial were linked to better improvements in weight status, as well as reductions in sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

In the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Mark Pachucki and colleagues have just published a study that finds a powerful relationship between siblings and obesity risk in children. They found the highest risk for obesity in children with an older sibling who has obesity. The risk in that situation renders a parent’s obesity irrelevant. And the risk is especially strong between siblings of the same gender.

These and other findings keep pointing to the same principle that is taking root in childhood obesity interventions. The best outcomes are more likely when interconnected relationships of the family are factored in.

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.” — George Bernard Shaw

Click here to read the study by Van Allen et al and here for the study by Pachucki et al. Click here to read more in the Harvard Gazette.

Family Portraits 2014, photograph © Rich Aten / flickr

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