November 03, 2016
2 min read

Parent weight loss influences adolescent weight loss

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NEW ORLEANS — Weight loss in parents may be influential on adolescents’ weight loss over time, study data show.

“Parent obesity is related to child weight so that children who are overweight or obese often have parents who are overweight or obese,” Jaqueline Hayes, MA, a graduate student in the department of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, said during her presentation. “We know that in family-based treatment, when parents are targeted for weight loss along with their child, that parent weight loss is an independent and robust predictor of child weight loss. Children who are losing the most weight also have parents who are losing the most weight.”

However, according to Hayes, the relationship is a bit different between adolescents and younger children.

“Adolescents are going to be more autonomous than children,” she said. “They will be outside of the home more often, eating meals separately from the family, and parents will have less control over their activities. It’s less clear of a role parents may play in adolescent weight and adolescent weight change.”

Hayes and colleagues evaluated 53 adolescents (mean age, 14.69 years) with overweight or obesity (baseline BMI z score, 2.04) and one parent (baseline BMI, 31.26 kg/m2) to determine the association between adolescent and parent weight change over 12 months whether that association mirrors that seen in younger children. Parents and adolescents had their weight measured at baseline and follow-up.

Adolescents also participated in either an online intervention with content geared toward improving diet and exercise habits or in a control group. During the intervention, parents were sent three newsletters with tips on how to aid their child in weight loss.

After controlling for baseline adolescent BMI z score, intervention did not predict adolescent BMI z score at 12 months (P > .1) in a linear regression model. However, the addition of parent BMI z score revealed that parent BMI z score positively predicted adolescent BMI z score change at 12 months (P < .05).

“Parent weight change is associated with weight change over time in adolescents, so this mirrors what is generally seen in other populations that parents are still having an influence on their children’s weight at that age group,” Hayes said. “Given this effect, it may be worthwhile to continue into adolescence to try to treat the parent for weight loss if they have overweight or obesity. We see that if parents are aiming to lose weight they’re also going to be benefitting their adolescents as well.” – by Amber Cox


Hayes J, et al. Oral T-OR-2034. Presented at: ObesityWeek 2016; Oct. 31-Nov. 4, 2016; New Orleans.

Disclosure: Hayes reports no relevant financial disclosures.