Hand of Dad

Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids

We’ve read much lately about how important maternal health is to preventing obesity in the next generation. It’s becoming equally clear that healthy dads are important for having healthy kids. Obesity travels through families and across generations.

In both animals and humans, evidence is accumulating to say that epigenetic transmission of obesity can come from fathers as well as mothers. In other words, conditions that affect a father’s health can alter the genes that he passes on to his children. This is a relatively new area of study receiving more and more attention.

But also or perhaps more important is the influence a father’s health can have after birth.

Emily Freeman and colleagues found in an observational study that a father’s weight status was more predictive of obesity risk than a mother’s. She says her study suggests that:

Fathers are a key influence in shaping the family environment that leads to the development of child obesity. Further, it suggests that interventions to test the efficacy of treating overweight fathers as an important and novel strategy to impact on weight status in childhood obesity should be a priority as fathers may be a strategic target for prevention and treatment of childhood obesity.

The notion that addressing childhood obesity requires engagement of the entire family is increasingly accepted as a best practice. The Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids program in Australia specifically targets health improvement in fathers for its impact upon children. Significant learning may come from research on this program.

In the meantime, Dad, take care of yourself.

Click here to read more about fathers and the epigenetics of obesity. Click here to read Freeman’s study.

Hand of Dad, photograph © Steve Koukoulas / flickr

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