Grandparents can be a powerful weapon against childhood obesity, says a study published in Pediatric Obesity. The emotional support children get from grandparents can protect them against obesity even when other risk factors are present.
Researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford studied preschool-aged Swedes who had received treatment for obesity. Parents answered questionnaires about their education, income, occupation, and home environment, including how much support (physical, financial, and emotional) they received from their parents, which were the children's grandparents.
The researchers found that when parents received emotional support from their own parents, it had a protective effect against obesity in their children. Even if the parents had low incomes, if they received a high level of emotional support from the grandparents, their children were less likely to be obese than families with similar low incomes but low levels of emotional support.
"Our study shows that emotional support from grandparents may have a preventive effect against child obesity, which is a serious disease," said Paulina Nowicka of the Karolinska Institutet. "These findings could, for instance, be incorporated into the planning of public health programs that are aimed at reducing obesity in children. Greater social support for families with small children could help alleviate stress in parents, who will thereby be in a better position to make better food choices."
Professor Stanley Ulijaszek, from Oxford University’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, said: "Less stressed parents who are receiving support from their families are likely to make better food choices at family meal times and be more attentive in their parenting." He added that since the study was limited in size, and since the children were recruited from an obesity clinic, more research is needed.
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