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Childhood Obesity May Not Come From Overweight Parents

Two studies that link childhood obesity to peer and parent influence are being challenged.

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Photo: Seth Werkheiser (Flickr)

Children with obese parents may not necessarily be more susceptible to obesity themselves.

Two recent studies on childhood obesity are drawing criticism from local experts. The first study, performed at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, says overweight parents create overweight children. Robin Stahl, Registered Dietician with Health Promotion Services at Community Health Network, says she has an issue with that notion.

Even if a child is growing up with high-fat, starchy foods,” she says, “if they allow themselves to eat just the amounts that are right for them, they won‘t necessarily become obese. They may be unhealthy.”

A Harvard University and University of California study from 2007 says a child‘s weight can be impacted if they have overweight friends. Stahl says that is possible but there is too much individuality to draw any conclusions from one study.

Indiana University mathematics professor Russell Lyons says the data used in both studies was flawed.

They had very, very sparse data,” he says, “on a very particular set of people where they found a small portion of their social network and they don‘t hide this fact. They know that it was not a very complete representation of whole networks that they had.”

Stahl and Lyons say more research needs to be done in both areas.

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