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Moms’ Healthy Habits Can Help Steer Kids Away From Obesity: Study

Childhood obesity is an ongoing problem.
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Parents who want their kids to have healthier lifestyles might want to start practicing what they preach. A new study suggests that if moms apply the same habits they're trying to teach their kids to themselves, they can actually reduce their children's chances of becoming obese by 75 per cent.

According to research conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, mothers who followed five specific habits were more likely to reduce the risk of obesity. These habits include eating healthy food, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking.

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Mothers who followed these healthy habits with their children reduced the risk of obesity even further, by 82 per cent, compared to moms and kids who did not adopt these habits.

"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," said senior study author Qi Sun, who is also an associate professor at Harvard's Department of Nutrition.

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To come to their conclusions, researchers analyzed data of more than 24,000 children, aged nine to 18, who were born to 16,945 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II, which included a questionnaire on daily lifestyle habits.

In addition to their findings, which were published in the British Medical Journal, the study concluded that maternal obesity, smoking habits and a lack of physical activity were strongly associated with obesity in kids.

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Previously, a 2017 international study found that child obesity could be 35 to 40 per cent inherited from parents.

Additionally, Dr. Robert Lustig, a San Francisco-based pediatric endocrinologist and national expert in pediatric obesity, told ABC News that "the association with smoking makes a lot of sense."

"Especially if the mother smoked during pregnancy, we know that it can lead to insulin resistance in the baby due to inflammation," he explained. "And we have good data that suggests this insulin resistance [a condition associated with increased risk of development of metabolic disorders] can manifest in the newborn and continue throughout their life."

Childhood obesity is an ongoing problem around the world, but in Canada, youth obesity rates have nearly tripled in the last 30 years, the Government of Canada website reports.

In order to help your children maintain a healthy weight, the site advises families eat meals together as often as possible and to limit sedentary activities, such as watching TV and playing video games.

And, in line with the Harvard School study, the Government of Canada advises parents to "set a good example" with healthy habits to encourage kids to follow suit.

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