Though the prevalence of obese preschool-age children in the U.S. is on the decline in some states, health researchers still consider the problem of obesity to be an epidemic in the country. Now, a new study has revealed what could be the most important factors in preventing preschool-age obesity.
The study, published in the journal Childhood Obesity, found three risk factors that are most significantly related to preschool obesity: not enough sleep, overweight or obese parents, and a restrictive food environment.
“What’s exciting here is that these risk factors are malleable and provide a road map for developing interventions that can lead to a possible reduction in children’s weight status,” said Brent McBride, a co-author of the study and a human development professor at the University of Illinois. “We should focus on convincing parents to improve their own health status, to change the food environment of the home so that healthy foods are readily available and unhealthy foods are not, and to encourage an early bedtime.”
McBride and his colleagues looked at over 300 two-year-old children during the course of the study. Of the 22 different factors that the study’s authors investigated, these three emerged as the strongest indicators of preschool-age obesity.
Based on the study’s findings, the report’s authors believe new recommendations can be provided to help prevent obesity in young children. Much of the suggestions revolve around parents and their own choices with regards to food. The study’s authors point out that food preferences are largely established at a young age, and that bad habits from parents can be easily passed on to children.
“If you, as an adult, live in a food environment that allows you to maintain an elevated weight, remember that your child lives in that environment too,” said Dipti Dev, co-author of the study and a graduate student at the University of Illinois. “Similarly, if you are a sedentary adult, you may be passing on a preference for television watching and computer games instead of playing chasing games with your preschooler or playing in the park.”