Being Overweight – Living Habits Of Families As Strong A Factor As Genes
Much is said and written about how diseases run in families. Obesity, too, has a link with family history. But how much of this is nature, i.e. genetic, and how much of this is nurture, i.e. dietary and lifestyle?
A study conducted several years ago at the Pennsylvania State University and published in the American Journal of Sociology has found that the link is as much social, as it is genetic.
In an attempt to spot trends of how much the living habits of families contributed to the likelihood of obesity in the children, the study team looked at data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which commenced in 1994 and tracked seventh to twelfth graders for a period of two years.
In all, information pertaining to 1,704 pairs of twins was analyzed. The study found that, while parents’ weight did play a part in a child’s risk of obesity, lifestyle habits also played a role. These included the number of days in the past week which the kids spent eating three square meals, as well as the amount of activity, which was determined by the time spent watching television or playing computer games.
Significantly, the influence of these lifestyle habits on the risk of being overweight was as strong as having a parent who was obese.
“What we do as a family – our family lifestyles – matters for weight. Lifestyles aren’t just about individual behaviors. We had a gut sense that this was known or true, but in the research literature it actually had not been proven,” said Dr Molly A Martin, the leader of the study.
According to her, previous research had focused on genes and the environment, without really looking at how family behavior impacted the issue.
“Families’ adoption, organization and maintenance of sustainable, healthy lifestyles is quite important, especially given the challenges involved in doing so in our postindustrial, time-squeezed economy. Within that challenge, I think that if we find little things on a daily basis, like going for walks, playing with the dog, maybe going sledding this winter, those little things actually do matter,” she added.
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