Proof obesity runs in families? Adults are SIX TIMES more likely to be fat in middle-age if their parents were

Proof obesity runs in families? Adults are SIX TIMES more likely to be fat in middle-age if their parents were

  • Researchers found even one obese parent tripled risk of obesity in adulthood
  • Experts say genes play important role by affecting susceptibility to weight gain

Middle-aged adults are six times more likely to be obese if both their parents were at the same time in life, a study suggests.

Growing evidence shows children of obese parents are likely to follow the same path and grow up overweight themselves.

But until now, the research had not tracked whether this trait – thought to be down both environment and genetics – lasted well into adulthood.

Analysis of height and weight data involving more than 2,000 people showed a strong link between parents’ body mass index (BMI) when aged between 40 and 59 years old, and that of their children at the same age.

Experts found even one obese parent tripled the risk compared to those whose parents were a healthy weight.

Mari Mikkelsen, of the University of Tromsø, Norway, said: ‘Genes play an important role by affecting our susceptibility to weight gain and influence how we respond to obesogenic environments in which it can be easy to eat unhealthily.

‘Some studies also speculate that children tend to develop similar dietary and exercise habits to their parents when they all live together under the same roof, resulting in a similar BMI status.

‘Obesity in childhood, and especially in adolescence, tends to follow the individual into early adulthood and so we suspected it would also follow them into middle age.

‘We found that this is indeed the case – children whose parents lived with obesity are much more likely to be living with obesity themselves when they are in their 40s and 50s, long after they have left home.’

When both parents were obese in middle age, their children had six times higher odds of living with obesity themselves in middle age, than adults with both parents in the normal weight range.

When only the mother lived with obesity, the child had 3.44 times higher odds of living with obesity, and 3.74 times higher odds if just the father was obese, according to the research to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Venice, Italy.

Researchers admitted it could not be established whether this was a result of ‘fat’ genes, environment, or a combination of the two.

Ms Mikkelsen added: ‘Whatever the explanation, our finding that obesity that is transmitted between generations can persist well into adulthood underlines the importance of treating and preventing obesity, a condition that contributes significantly to ill health and premature death.

‘It also lays the foundation for research into factors that influence the intergenerational transmission of obesity and that can be targeted to prevent offspring from spending their whole life affected by obesity.’


Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide

Kate Pickles

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