Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sibling composition impacts childhood obesity risk

Date:
July 8, 2014
Source:
Elsevier
Summary:
Having obese brothers and sisters is a more revealing indicator of child obesity than having obese parents, according to a new study. Older children in a two-child household with an obese parent are 2.3 times more likely to be obese, but that number jumps to 5.4 times for those with overweight younger siblings. If the child is the younger sibling in a two-child household, parental obesity is not relevant to risk, but having an obese older sibling is associated with a 5.6-fold higher risk.

It is well documented that children with obese parents are at greater risk for obesity. In a new study, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Cornell University, and Duke University looked at how different kinds of family associations affect obesity, specifically how sibling relationships affect a child’s weight. They not only found a correlation between parents and child, but also discovered a link between having an obese sibling and a child’s obesity risk, after adjusting for the parent-child relationship. Their findings are published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

By surveying adults in 10,244 American households, investigators found that the likelihood of childhood obesity varies with the number of children in a household, as well as their gender. According to the study, in a single child household, a child is 2.2 times more likely to be obese if a parent is also obese.

However, in families with two children, the data showed a stronger relationship with sibling obesity than with parental obesity. Older children in a two-child household with an obese parent are 2.3 times more likely to be obese, but that number jumps to 5.4 times for those with overweight younger siblings. If the child is the younger sibling in a two-child household, parental obesity is not relevant to risk, but having an obese older sibling is associated with a 5.6-fold higher risk.

“The family environment is known to exert a strong influence on the trajectory of children’s health, and prior research has done a great deal to illuminate connections between parent and offspring obesity. Others have also found that obesity is also often correlated between siblings. Our study extends these findings by integrating data on both parent-child, and sibling relationships. We found that obesity status of a younger child’s older sibling is more strongly associated with a child’s obesity than is the parent’s obesity status,” notes lead investigator Mark C. Pachucki, PhD, Mongan Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. “This association is independent of a host of socioeconomic and demographic attributes, health behaviors, and overall health status.” Dr. Pachucki began this research collaboration when he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, San Francisco.

The data also uncovered a link between gender and obesity risk. In homes with only one child, girls were less likely to be obese than their male counterparts. Gender was also an important factor for siblings in two-child households. The study suggests that younger children may be particularly susceptible to the influence of an older sibling, especially if that sibling is of the same sex.

“For youngest boys in two-child families, obesity is 11.4 times more likely with a male older sibling,” write the authors. “If that younger boy’s elder sibling is a girl, the boy is 6.6 times more likely to be obese. In two-child families, youngest-girl obesity is 8.6 times more likely with a female older sibling and is not significantly more likely if the older sibling is male. Thus, for younger children, there is a discernible gender correlation in sibling obesity status: having an obese elder same-gender sibling is associated with an increased likelihood of the younger child being obese.”

Of course, exercise and food consumption play key roles in the prevention of obesity, and investigators found that only children were less likely to engage in physical activity and more likely to eat fast food than their counterparts with brothers and sisters. Curiously, however, the data also showed that having a highly active older sibling raised the obesity risk for the younger sibling. “Younger siblings with more vigorous physical activity are significantly less likely to be obese, though having an elder sibling who is extremely active is associated with a higher risk of younger-sibling obesity,” clarifies Dr. Pachucki.

While the authors stress that more within-family obesity research is needed, this new study offers key data that will be beneficial in the fight against childhood obesity. “Because this study is cross-sectional, a snapshot of one point in time, we cannot claim that these particular siblings are causing one another’s weight status. And we were only able to look at one-child and two-child families. Still, our findings are consistent with research showing that siblings tend to eat alike and have similar levels of physical activity,” concludes Dr. Pachucki. “In seeking to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, it may be productive to consider prevention and treatment models that meaningfully recognize siblings as interconnected.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mark C. Pachucki, Michael F. Lovenheim, Matthew Harding. Within-Family Obesity Associations. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2014.05.018

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. "Sibling composition impacts childhood obesity risk." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140708092124.htm>.
Elsevier. (2014, July 8). Sibling composition impacts childhood obesity risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140708092124.htm
Elsevier. "Sibling composition impacts childhood obesity risk." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140708092124.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Research on plaque from ancient teeth shows that our prehistoric ancestor's had a detailed understanding of plants long before developing agriculture. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

AFP (July 18, 2014) Contaminated water in South Africa's northwestern town of Bloemhof kills three babies and hospitalises over 500 people. The incident highlights growing fears over water safety in South Africa. Duration: 02:22 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins