UPBEAT: Can fathers influence the development of childhood obesity?

Do paternal characteristics – such as age, race, BMI, existing health conditions, diet and physical activity levels – affect whether their child is overweight or obese?

Start: September 2018

End: August 2019

Childhood obesity is a major global public health problem. In the UK, around one in ten 4–5 year olds are clinically obese.

It is crucial that we understand the causes of childhood obesity so that we can improve public health nationally and internationally, and also prevent chronic disease later in life.

Obesity can often run in families, and is influenced by genetics and parental behaviours. Several studies have looked into whether childhood obesity is related to mother's obesity and also whether infant feeding practices – for example, whether babies are breast or bottle fed, and when solids are introduced – can have a long-term effect on the weight of a child.

Is childhood obesity affected by father's lifestyle and genetics?

However, we don’t know very much about how childhood obesity is influenced by the health and habits of fathers. We want to find out more.

We will look at information collected from over 1,500 families during the UPBEAT study, which was the largest ever study of obese pregnant women. We want to see if there is a link between paternal characteristics – such as age, race, BMI, existing health conditions, diet and physical activity levels – and whether their child is overweight or obese when they are 3 years old.

We will also look at whether these same characteristics in mothers have an effect on the weight of their child, so that we can better understand how mothers and fathers can together influence whether or not their child becomes obese.

We hope that the results of our study will lead to the development of other research programmes aimed at understanding the impact mothers and fathers can have on the weight of their children. We believe that this is important, as we want to work out how best to help families make healthy changes that will reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.


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