Pre-School Children Should
Live As They Did 25 Years Ago
Young children should live as they did a generation ago to help
prevent obesity, a new study shows.
Four-year-olds who ate dinner with their siblings and parents,
got a lot of sleep and had their TV viewing rationed were found
to have a reduced risk of becoming seriously overweight.
Children who followed these routines more in line with
children 25 years ago - were almost 40 per cent less likely to
be obese than those from less disciplined households.
The study came as figures showed how child obesity in England
rose from one in 10 to one in seven between 1995 and 2008.
Dr Sarah Anderson, from Ohio State University in the US, said:
"The routines were protective even among groups that typically
have a high risk for obesity.
This is important because it suggests that there's a potential
for these routines to be useful targets for obesity prevention
in all children."
Each routine on its own was associated with lower obesity, but
their effect was greater when combined.
Scientists analysed data collected as part of a major health
study on 8,550 US children born in 2001.
The researchers focused on three particular family routines:
eating an evening meal as a family more than five times a week,
getting at least 10-and-a-half hours sleep a night, and watching
less than two hours of TV per day on weekdays.
Children were categorised as "obese" if their body
mass index (BMI), based on height and weight measurements, was
in the top five per cent of figures cited in recognised growth
In total, 18 per cent of the children studied were considered
to be obese under this definition.
Among four-year-old children whose families practised all three
routines, the prevalence of obesity was 14.3 per cent.
In contrast, almost one in four of children living in households
with none of the routines were obese.
The study, published in the journal Paediatrics, suggested adopting
just one of the routines could lower a child's risk of becoming
"I imagine people are going to want to know which of the
routines is most important: is it limited TV, is it dinner, is
it adequate sleep?" said Dr Anderson.
"What this suggests is that you can't point to any one of
these routines. Each one appears to be associated with a lower
risk of obesity, and having more of these routines appears to
lower the risk further."
Previous research had suggested that children are more likely
to be obese if their mothers were severely overweight, their household
income was below the poverty level, their mothers left school
early, and they were growing up in a single-parent home.
Even in children for whom all these factors applied, practising
the three family routines appeared to lower the likelihood of
Many of the families studied already practised at least two of
the routines, the researchers found.
More than 56 per cent of families had dinner together at least
six evenings per week, and in 57.5 per cent of cases pre-schoolers
slept at least 10.5 hours per night.
TV time was limited to two hours or less among 40.4 per cent
However, some children were obese despite their families practising
all three routines.
February 9, 2010