Teaching mums can cut childhood obesity
Teaching new mums about healthy eating and active play can help cut the risk of their child being overweight or obese, according to a new study.
Childhood obesity is a serious health challenge, affecting more than 43 million preschool children worldwide (6.7%) and studies show that it could have adverse effects on their health in later life.
Recent research found 19% of Irish children were overweight at age nine, with 26% of nine-year-olds outside the healthy range for their weight.
Now, an Australian study has found that preschool children who are obese or overweight have a high chance of carrying this into adulthood.
Methods of feeding children, when they start eating solids and the amount of television watched (the recommendation for 2-5 year-olds is no more than 60 minutes per day) are the most common factors that contribute to childhood obesity, especially in lower socio-economic groups
, it was found.
Researchers in Sydney, Australia looked at over 660 first-time mothers and their infants. They focused on the children's BMI, feeding habits and television viewing time.
The mothers were split into two groups: an intervention group and a control group.
Nurses taught mothers in the intervention group healthy eating and exercise habits for their children. The following messages were used for their children: breast is best; no solids for me until six months; I eat a variety of fruit and vegetables everyday; only water in my cup and I am part of an active family.
The average body mass index (BMI) at 24 months for children in the study was 16.49 (where a healthy BMI is 14-18 for boys and 13-18 for girls), compared with 16.87 in the control group, and 11.2% of those in the intervention group were overweight or obese after 24 months compared with 14.1% of the control group.
A total of 89% of children in the intervention group were also significantly more likely to eat one or more servings of vegetables per day compared with 83%, and 62% of children in the intervention group were likely to be given food as a reward compared with 72% in the control group.
The percentage of children eating in front of the television was also significantly lower in the intervention group at 56% compared with 68%. Meanwhile, 14% of children in the intervention group watched more than the recommended amount of television compared with 22% in the control group.
However, no difference was seen in the amount of fruit and junk food consumption and time spent outdoors. Mothers in the intervention group were also significantly more likely to eat more than two servings of vegetables per day (52% compared with 36%) and spend 150 minutes or more exercising per week (48% compared with 38%).
The study found that the first few years of a child's development are crucial in setting the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour and health outcomes.
According to the researchers, the early onset of childhood overweight and obesity requires 'health promotion programmes to start as early as possible', and that they should be family focused and can be effective in improving children's weight status.
The study was conducted by researchers from the South Western Sydney & Sydney Local Health Districts, and the University of Sydney.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal.
[Posted: Wed 27/06/2012]