From the day we are born, our parents help to shape the adults we’ll eventually become.
Though we eventually learn to make lifestyle choices of our own, parents are responsible for establishing their children’s good (or bad) habits. A recent survey from the University of Illinois agrees, finding that more than 90 percent of Americans believe that individuals and parents are primarily responsible for the obesity epidemic facing the country.
As scientists continue to unveil more research on obesity, they’re identifying key points in a child’s life where bad habits can be curbed. And the most common trend they’ve found is that the earlier parents instill good habits, the healthier their children are likely to be in the long-run.
Overweight 5-Year-Olds Likely to Become Overweight Teens
Aside from outward appearance, obesity can also affect a child’s school performance. A University of California, Los Angeles study has found that obese children are more likely to have poor overall health, more emotional and behavioral problems, higher rates of repeating grades, depression, developmental delays, and more.
Now, using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health have found that a child’s weight in kindergarten is a strong indicator for their risk of obesity later in life.
They found that overweight kindergarteners were four times more likely to become obese by the 8th grade than normal-weight kindergarteners.
The team, led by Solveig A. Cunningham, an assistant professor of global health, examined data from approximately 3.8 million children in the CDC’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-U.S. Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999.
Children who are large at birth and overweight by kindergarten have the highest risk of being obese by the time they hit high school, the study says.
Because more than 12 percent of U.S. children enter kindergarten obese, researchers say that prevention efforts should begin early so children don’t become or remain obese later in life.
Bad Breakfast Habits Linked to Metabolic Syndrome Later in Life
One good habit parents can instill in their children is to begin the day with a quality breakfast. New research is revealing how the way teens start the day can impact their health when they reach their 40s.
Researchers with the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umea University in Sweden analyzed the habits of 889 people, first at age 16 and again at the ages of 21 and 43.
At 43, about 27 percent of the people in the study had metabolic syndrome, a collection of symptoms of poor health that include obesity, hypertension, poor glucose regulation, and high cholesterol.
Focusing on poor breakfast habits—like skipping breakfast or only eating or drinking something sweet—researchers found that having such breakfast habits as teens predicted a person’s likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome later in life.
But that’s not to say that kids who occasionally snag a Pop-Tart on their way out the door are doomed to suffer health problems in the future. Rather, it's more about overall lifestyle. The researchers noted that those who ate a healthy breakfast were more likely to exercise, two habits that continued throughout their lives.
“Our finding that those with poor breakfast habits exercise less, drink more alcohol, and smoke more than breakfast eaters supports the view that poor breakfast habits is in part of an unhealthy lifestyle,” researchers concluded in their study, published Wednesday in the journal Public Health Nutrition.