Parent influence on child obesity

How do parents influence the development of obesity in their children? Conversely, how can parents prevent child obesity?

An update to the Childhood obesity and parents’ influence bibliography.

Featured articles (these articles have been added to the bibliography):

*Benton, D. (2004). Role of parents in the determination of the food preferences of children and the development of obesity. International Journal of Obesity and Related Disorders, 28(7), 858-869. [Cited by]

“The role of parental behavior in the development of food preferences is considered. Food preferences develop from genetically determined predispositions to like sweet and salty flavors and to dislike bitter and sour tastes. Particularly towards the second year of life, there is a tendency to avoid novel foods (neophobia). Food aversions can be learnt in one trial if consumption is followed by discomfort. There is a predisposition to learn to like foods with high-energy density. However, from birth genetic predispositions are modified by experience and in this context during the early years parents play a particularly important role. Parental style is a critical factor in the development of food preferences. Children are more likely to eat in emotionally positive atmospheres. Siblings, peers and parents can act as role models to encourage the tasting of novel foods. Repeated exposure to initially disliked foods can breakdown resistance. The offering of low-energy-dense foods allows the child to balance energy intake. Restricting access to particular foods increases rather than decreases preference. Forcing a child to eat a food will decrease the liking for that food. Traditionally, educational strategies have typically involved attempts to impart basic nutritional information. Given the limited ability of information to induce changes in behavior, an alternative strategy would be to teach parents about child development in the hope that an understanding of the characteristic innate tendencies and developmental stages can be used to teach healthy food preferences.”

*Gohir, W., Ratcliffe, E. M., & Sloboda, D. M. (2015). Of the bugs that shape us: Maternal obesity, the gut microbiome, and long-term disease risk. Pediatric Research, 77(1-2), 196-204. [Cited by]

Chronic disease risk is inextricably linked to our early-life environment, where maternal, fetal, and childhood factors predict disease risk later in life. Currently, maternal obesity is a key predictor of childhood obesity and metabolic complications in adulthood. Although the mechanisms are unclear, new and emerging evidence points to our microbiome, where the bacterial composition of the gut modulates the weight gain and altered metabolism that drives obesity. Over the course of pregnancy, maternal bacterial load increases, and gut bacterial diversity changes and is influenced by pre-pregnancy- and pregnancy-related obesity. Alterations in the bacterial composition of the mother have been shown to affect the development and function of the gastrointestinal tract of her offspring. How these microbial shifts influence the maternal-fetal-infant relationship is a topic of hot debate. This paper will review the evidence linking nutrition, maternal obesity, the maternal gut microbiome, and fetal gut development, bringing together clinical observations in humans and experimental data from targeted animal models.”

Find more information by searching the Science Primary Literature database.

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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