Only Children at Higher Risk of Obesity than Kids with Siblings: Study
Sat, April 10, 2021

Only Children at Higher Risk of Obesity than Kids with Siblings: Study

Only children are more likely to be obese than kids with siblings according to a study / Photo by: Dmitriy Protsenko via 123RF

 

Only children are more likely to be obese than kids with siblings. This is based on new research published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

 

Eating Habits of Singletons and Those With Siblings

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma found that families with multiple children tend to make healthier eating decisions compared to families with a single child. The team looked at the body weight and eating habits of only children, whom they referred to as “singletons.” They discovered that these singletons had less healthy beverage choices and eating habits compared with kids who have two or more siblings. 

Study lead author Dr. Chelsea Kracht from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center said that nutrition professionals should also consider the influence of siblings and the family as a whole to help them provide a tailored or appropriate nutrition education for children. Kracht added that efforts to help all families and children establish healthy eating practices and habits “must be encouraged.”

The data used by the American researchers were self-reported based on the food records kept by mothers. The food logs were for three days, one weekend day, and two weekdays. In the same way, teachers also kept their food logs as a proxy for any food that the subject children ate while they were at school.  Mothers, who participated in the study, also completed a questionnaire to help the researchers evaluate the typical eating behaviors of their family as well as their physical activity.

Out of the 68 youngsters involved in the research, 27 of them were only- children. They belonged in one group and the other group was composed of kids with siblings. Of the two groups, 37 percent of singletons were obese and while there was only 5 percent in the group with siblings.

Busy Parents With Multiple Children

Kracht discussed that busy parents with multiple children forced them to better plan and be more organized of their family meals and tend to “eat out less.” On the other hand, moms of singletons were likely to suffer from obesity themselves. Researchers also found that the maternal body mass index had a strong connection to waist circumference and child BMI percentile. While maternal BMI did not contribute significantly to the child’s eating patterns, it contributed to empty calories. 

Out of the questionnaire answered by the mothers, there were four response options: (1) almost never, (2) sometimes, (3) usually, and (4) almost always. The healthier the practice, the higher the score would be. It was revealed that singletons have lower scores on their physical activity, nutritional intake, drink choices, and family eating practices.

Pediatrician and obesity medicine physician Dr. Natalie Muth, who is not involved in the study, commented via CNN that although the sample size of the study was small, it had an “interesting point” that needed to be better understood. Muth is currently the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity and is a registered dietitian by profession.

The National Health Service, established as one of the major social reforms, suggested that a balanced diet should be based on rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, and other starchy carbohydrates that are ideally wholegrain.

Kracht discussed that busy parents with multiple children forced them to better plan and be more organized of their family meals and tend to “eat out less" / Photo by: Olena Kachmar via 123RF

 

Share of Children Who Are Overweight

Scientific online publication Our World in Data released information on the percentage of children below 5 years old who are overweight ranged against the total population. It also considered the Child Growth Standards released by the World Health Organization. In the United States, 6 percent of children are overweight while it is 7.2 percent in Peru. Other countries included were Algeria (12.4 percent), Philippines (5 percent), Indonesia (11.5 percent), Sudan (3 percent), Sri Lanka (0.6 percent), Mongolia (10.5 percent), and Paraguay (11.7 percent). 

US health protection agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also shared that the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years old is 18.5 percent, which affects roughly about 13.7 million in the world. The prevalence of obesity was 13.9 percent among 2 to 5 years old, 18.4 percent among 6 to 11 years old, and 20.6 percent among 12 to 19 years old. Meanwhile, the WHO stated that the common health consequences of childhood obesity are breathing difficulties, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, psychological effects, increased risk of fractures, and insulin resistance in adulthood.

Scientific online publication Our World in Data released information on the percentage of children below 5 years old who are overweight ranged against the total population / Photo by: ruslanshug via 123RF

 

A 2017 study of nearly 19,487 Chinese singletons also gave researchers a gold mine of information to find the connection between being an only child and obesity. Authors Li M. and the team found that only sons living in urban China were 43 percent at risk of obesity and 36 percent at risk of being overweight than children with siblings. Only daughters were also at higher risk of obesity, they added. The group concluded that future interventions on childhood obesity should give special attention to targeting the only child population.

Fortunately, obesity and overweight are “largely preventable,” said the WHO. It suggested limiting energy intake from sugars and total fats, increasing consumption of vegetables and fruit, and engaging in physical activity. For children, it recommended at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.