Childhood obesity: moms’ work schedule a factor?

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New research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and highlighted by Reuters suggests that the increasing prevalence of moms holding down full-time jobs may be a contributing factor in the childhood obesity epidemic. In an effort to determine what factors may be driving childhood obesity, researchers from University College London analyzed data for more than 8,500 British adults born in 1958. They also looked at data for more than 1,800 young children born to the original study cohort. They found that, between the two generations, prevalence of childhood obesity had jumped by 50%.

When they examined the different circumstances of the two generations, researchers noted that the children were significantly more likely than their parents to have a mom who holds down a full-time job. The data didn’t include any information about children’s specific eating or exercise habits, but researchers speculate that kids whose moms work full-time may have fewer family meals and perhaps less nutritionally valuable diets. Statistically, the authors note that children whose mothers work full-time were 48% more likely to be obese than those whose moms didn’t work, Reuters reports.

The researchers also noted that the prevalence of obesity among parents influenced the likelihood that children were obese themselves. Study authors found that, children of obese parents were 3 to 6 times more likely to be obese themselves, compared with kids of parents with normal range body index (BMI).

The study authors conclude that, if the increase in mothers holding full-time jobs is a factor in the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity, it is likely a small contributor, and just one of many ingredients in the recipe for a childhood obesity epidemic.

Read the full Reuters story here. Read the study abstract here.