Future childhood obesity prevention efforts should focus on child sleep duration, parental BMI and parental feeding restrictions as important risk indicators, according to recent findings.
Researchers evaluated 329 parent-child pairs to determine the greatest risk factors for obesity. The children were aged 2 to 5 years. Height and weight measurements of the children, using standard growth charts, were taken and utilized to calculate age- and gender-specific z scores. Twenty-two previously reported childhood obesity risk factors were used for the analysis.
The researchers found that 73.3% of the children were healthy weight, 17.6% were overweight and 9.1% were obese.
Of the 22 risk factors analyzed, the researchers found a significant association between three and overweight or obese status in children. The factors included child’s nighttime sleep duration (P=.003), BMI of the parent (P=.01) and restrictive feeding by parents to control or reduce the child’s weight (P=.02).
There was a 2.2 times greater risk of overweight/obesity among children who slept for 8 hours or less per night and a 1.9 times greater risk of overweight/obesity in children with an overweight or obese parent. The restriction of a child’s food intake by parents to control or reduce overweight/obesity was linked to a 1.75 times greater likelihood of overweight/obese status in children.
“Engaging and educating parents about the importance of sleep, and not using restrictive feeding practices, may add to the efficacy of childhood obesity prevention and intervention programs,” the researchers wrote. “Childhood obesity prevention efforts may benefit from targeting these key risk factors as focus areas for obesity prevention. Although excess weight gain is an outcome of any energy imbalance resulting from consumption of energy-dense foods and decreased physical activity, it is important to extend the overweight/obesity prevention efforts to engage parents in child- or family-focused obesity prevention efforts; establish sleep routines for children, and increase awareness about the negative effect of restrictive feeding practices.
Disclosure: See the study for a complete list of the researchers relevant financial disclosures.