Want to Lower Your Kids’ Obesity Risk? Get an Education

Who’d have thought? One of the best ways to lower your children’s obesity risk is to go back to school. No them, you! Poorly educated parents tend to eat—and feed their children—fewer fruits and veggies and more high-fat, high-sugar foods and drinks. Better educated parents do just the opposite, emphasizing healthy eating habits and providing more nutritious, lower-fat, lower-sugar, better-rounded foods, including fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.

As a result, children in families where the parents are less educated have a higher risk of obesity or becoming overweight, said Juan Miguel Fernandez Alvira, from Spain’s University of Zaragoza in a press release. Fernandez Alvira and his team analyzed data from nearly 15,000 2-9-year olds in Sweden, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Germany, and three other European countries.

According to a report on obesity from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “Unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year.” In addition, a recent UCLA study found that overweight children are twice as likely as normal-weight children to have three or more reported medical, mental, or developmental conditions. And we haven’t even started talking about how obesity increases the risk of developing diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease.

A contributing factor to this whole thing is that better educated parents tend to have more regular family mealtimes than less-educated parents. And even a few minutes at the dining room table can make a very big difference in reducing obesity. Researchers at the University of Illinois, for example, recently found that children in families who engage each other over a 20-minute meal four times a week weighed less than kids who left the table after 15 to 17 minutes.

Fernandez Alvira’s study was published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. Read an abstract here.

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