Moms more influential than dads when it comes to children’s weight, study finds

America's obesity problem is on the rise. Again. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 percent of American adults are obese, the highest rates ever recorded in the country. Obesity can lead to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The childhood obesity rate, for ages 6-19, has increased to a concerning 20%. Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.

New research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology suggests children mirror their mothers' weight loss and gains, but not their fathers'.

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After examining the activity levels of 4,424 children and their parents over an 11-year period, scientists learned that children closely followed their mother’s weight loss habits.

For example, researcher Kristi Kvaløy pointed out in a university article, a mother dropping two to six kilos (about four to 13 pounds) was linked to lower body mass index in children.

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Additionally, if mothers didn’t stay physically active, children tended to gain weight “across the board,” researchers said.

No such link was found if a father lost weight.

The research suggests mothers are still the parents primarily responsible for activities and meals, according to Kvaløy.

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But education seemed to play a role, too. On average, adolescents of parents with high education levels had lower BMIs.

More research concerning such possible “causal mechanisms of obesity development in children, including the impact of lifestyle changes within families, will help healthcare professionals, policy-makers and politicians to improve public obesity prevention strategies,” researchers concluded.

Study limitations

Though the study had a large sample size and used standardized methods by health personnel to identify trends, researchers only examined two obesogenic factors (weight and physical activity) and relied heavily on self-reported physical activity levels.

Read the full study, published in the journal BMJ Open, at

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