Healthy maternal lifestyle during mid-childhood years was associated with a 75% lower risk for obesity in later childhood and adolescence.
Debate about the relative roles of genetics and environment in the genesis of childhood obesity continues. To examine the possible effect of maternal health lifestyle on childhood obesity risk, researchers prospectively assessed obesity in nearly 1300 nonobese children (ages 9–14 years) of participants in the Nurses' Health Study II. Maternal lifestyle factors deemed low-risk were normal body-mass index (BMI), healthy diet, regular exercise, no current smoking, and low-to-moderate alcohol intake. Findings were as follows:
Five percent of the cohort became obese during a median follow-up of 5 years.
Children of mothers with a BMI ≥30 had a threefold higher risk for becoming obese compared with children of mothers with a BMI <25.
Children of former or current smokers had an increased risk for obesity.
Maternal regular exercise and moderate alcohol intake were associated with a lower risk for obesity in children.
Children whose mothers had all five low-risk factors had a 75% lower risk for obesity compared with children whose mothers had none.
When mothers and children both had the lowest-risk lifestyle factors, obesity risk for children was 82% lower compared with mothers and children with the highest-risk lifestyle factors.