Children said to be inheriting obesity from parents

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Researchers have pointed out in a study that children inherit obesity from parents with as much as 40 per cent of the child’s body-mass index being inherited from parents.

This effectively means that genetics plays a key role in a kid’s tendency towards obesity. Researchers have noted in their study published in the journal Economics and Human Biology that for obese children this proportion of inheritance rises to 60 per cent.

Using data on heights and weights 100,000 children and their parents spanning six countries worldwide: the UK, US, China, Indonesia, Spain and Mexico, a team of researchers led by University of Sussex in the UK found that the intergenerational transmission of body-mass index (BMI) is almost constant at around 0.2 per parent — that is each child’s BMI on average is around 20 per cent due to the mother and 20 per cent due to the father.

The pattern of results is remarkably consistent across all countries, irrespective of their stage of economic development, degree of industrialisation, or type of economy, said Peter Dolton, Professor at the University of Sussex in the UK. Dolton says that their findings give us rare and important insights into how obesity is transmitted across generations in both developed and developing countries.

“We found that the process of intergenerational transmission is the same across all the different countries,” he said.

The study also shows how the effect of parents’ BMI on their children’s BMI depends on what the BMI of the child is.

Consistently, across all populations studied, they found the ‘parental effect’ to be lowest for the thinnest children and highest for the most obese children.

For the thinnest child their BMI is 10 per cent due to their mother and 10 per cent due to their father. For the fattest child this transmission is closer to 30 per cent due to each parent.

“This shows that the children of obese parents are much more likely to be obese themselves when they grow up — the parental effect is more than double for the most obese children what it is for the thinnest children,” said Dolton.

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