BOSTON — Obesity among American children has developed into a very real problem over the past few decades. An astounding 20% of U.S. children between the ages of six and 19 are classified as obese, putting them at a greater risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, or any number of other medical conditions later in life.
Now, a recent study performed at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has identified five healthy habits moms can take up to significantly help their children avoid obesity during adolescence. According to the study’s findings, children of mothers who follow these five habits are 75% less likely to become obese when compared to children whose mothers did not follow any of of the habits:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Regularly exercise
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Only drink alcohol in moderation
- Don’t smoke
Additionally, when both mother and child adhered to these five healthy habits, the risk of obesity dropped 82% when compared to mothers and children who did not.
“Our study was the first to demonstrate that an overall healthy lifestyle really outweighs any individual healthy lifestyle factors followed by mothers when it comes to lowering the risk of obesity in their children,” says senior author Qi Sun, associate professor in the Harvard Department of Nutrition, in a statement.
To be clear, healthy habits surely aren’t the only factors at play when it comes to developing obesity or not. Scientists have shown that genetics play a large role in obesity rates, but the rapid increase of U.S. obesity cases in recent years is likely because of changes to lifestyle and diet.
To come to their conclusions, researchers analyzed data from 24,289 children born to 16,945 women who had already been enrolled in a previous study called “Growing Up Today.” During the analysis, researchers focused their attention on the links between a mother’s lifestyle and habits and the risk of obesity among their offspring between the ages of nine and 18.
The study’s authors say that their findings reinforce just how important a mother’s lifestyle choices are for her children.
The study is published in the peer-reviewed journal BMJ.