Published: Sat, July 07, 2018
Medicine | By Douglas Stevenson

Two million New Zealanders will be obese by the 2030s

Two million New Zealanders will be obese by the 2030s

In a country where about 1 out of 5 children under 19 years old are obese - according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention -, the experts made a decision to investigate what was making that number so high.

Obesity puts children at risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic conditions later in life.

Those mother who follow all the habits could help their children to decrease the chances by 75 percent. While it is known that genetics play a role in obesity, the rapid increase of the disease in recent years is likely due to changes in lifestyle and diet, indicating that nurture more than nature is fueling the epidemic.

"These results suggest that, in the New Zealand context, the forces behind the obesity epidemic have largely been contemporaneous (period) influences on BMI, such as greater availability and consumption of high-energy, low-nutrient foods and lower levels of physical activity across all cohorts, rather than cohort-specific factors", the researchers state in their paper.

When both children and mothers followed a healthy lifestyle, there was a 82% reduced risk of their offspring being obese.

The study included data on 24,289 children who participated in the Growing Up Today Study, who were born to almost 17,000 mothers.

Numerous mothers involved in the study didn't describe themselves as heavy drinkers, so the study couldn't determine the effects of high alcohol consumption on obesity risk. By 2038, the average BMI among Pacific people is projected to exceed that of the general population by 7.1-8.1kg/m2. Below 18.5 is in the underweight range, between 25 and 29.9 is in the overweight range, and between 30 and 39.9 is in the obese range.

Women were on average 41 years old with a mean BMI of 25 and most (93%) were not current smokers. Children of mums with a healthy BMI had a 56 percent lower risk of obesity, while children of non-smokers had a 31 percent lower risk.

In addition to their findings, which were published in the British Medical Journal, the study concluded that maternal obesity, smoking habits and a lack of physical activity were strongly associated with obesity in kids.

Obesity risk is lowest for children whose mothers make five healthy lifestyle choices.

Children whose mothers followed the five healthy habits were 75 percent less likely to become obese than children of mothers who didn't follow any of the habits, the investigators found.

This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and the researchers outline some study limitations.

The smoking status of the mother determines the overall health of the child.

"Currently there isn't much data specifically on maternal behaviors after giving birth and associations with childhood obesity", said by the lead author named Dr. QI Sun, who is an assistant professor at the Dept. of Nutrition at Harvard School of public health.

These findings highlight the potential benefits of implementing parent based interventions to curb the risk of childhood obesity, they say.

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