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Study Lists Three Biggest Contributors to Childhood Obesity

Update Date: Jan 14, 2014 03:17 PM EST

Childhood obesity, which is an ongoing problem throughout the world, is caused by several factors. In a new study, researchers from the University of Illinois listed the three top contributors to childhood obesity. According to the team, a lack of sleep, parental body mass indexes (BMI) and parental limitations on children's diets are major contributors to obesity.

"We looked at 22 variables that had previously been identified as predictors of child obesity, and the three that emerged as strong predictors did so even as we took into account the influence of the other 19. Their strong showing gives us confidence that these are the most important risk factors to address," said Brent McBride, a professor of human development and director of the university's Child Development Laboratory reported by Medical Xpress.

For this study, the researchers distributed surveys to 329 parent-child groups from child-care centers located in east-central Illinois. The centers were a part of the university's STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids Program. Based on the researchers' analyses, the first variable they identified as one of the contributors to childhood obesity is inadequate sleep. Children who do not sleep a lot due to several reasons, such as media use, spend more hours staying awake and are more likely to consume more calories.

The second variable the researchers identified is parental BMI. Children who have at least one overweight or obese parent are more likely to be overweight or obese as well. The last variable was parental diet restrictions enforced on children. The researchers explained that restricting children's diets could increase their desire for certain foods.

"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. 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," graduate student, Dipti A. Dev said.

The researches stressed the importance of creating a healthy atmosphere at home. The study, "Risk factors for overweight/obesity in preschool children: An ecological approach," was published in Childhood Obesity.

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