Family Action Centre researcher, Dr Emily Freeman and her colleagues have discovered an important factor predicting children’s obesity – overweight fathers.
A study of more than 3,000 families across a four-year period found a strong link between father and child weight problems.
“We know that when both parents are overweight or obese, their children are more likely to also be overweight or obese,” Dr Freeman said.
“This latest project investigated patterns in families and tracked children from ages four to eight, where only one parent was overweight or obese.”
The research, published in the International Journal of Obesity, used data from more than 3,000 two-parent families tracked from 2004 to 2008.
Dr Freeman said children with overweight or obese fathers were at a higher risk of becoming obese, but obese or overweight mothers were not a significant predictor of child obesity.
“Discovering this relationship between the fathers’ and children’s weight problems is an important step forward, but more research is needed into what influences this,” Dr Freeman said.
Previous Australian research has found childhood obesity is a major health concern in Australia with up to 25 per cent of children overweight or obese.
“These results show we urgently need to test whether treating overweight fathers would be a successful strategy in childhood obesity prevention or treatment,” she said.
The research for this project was conducted using data taken from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.
For more information about the study contact: Dr Emily Freeman on 4921 6115 or 0422 896 036, or Dr Richard Fletcher on 4921 6401 or 0401 855 678.
Media contact: Tess Campbell, Media and Public Relations Officer, University of Newcastle on 4921 8714 or 0439 624 521.