Monday, February 8, 2010

Three family habits associated with less preschool obesity

A recent national study names three things parents can do to reduce the risk of their preschooler being fat:

  • Eat together as a family.
  • Make sure the kid gets enough sleep.
  • Limit weekday TV time.
No revelations here, but it's quantified. In families who do all 3, 14% were fat, compared with 25% among those who did none of the above. So it changes from 1 kid in 7 to 1 kid in 4.

The author said,
"I imagine people are going to want to know which of the routines is most important: Is it limited TV, is it dinner, is it adequate sleep? And what this suggests is that you can't point to any one of these routines. Each one appears to be associated with a lower risk of obesity, and having more of these routines appears to lower the risk further."
 But you have to wonder which way the causal relation goes. Would a fat kid get less fat if you turned off the TV? It would not be a stretch to conjecture that people whose brains make them be more active than others would watch less TV and have different sleep patterns. I wonder what it would show if they compared kids who are sedentary but sit in their rooms and read or daydream instead of watch TV. I mean people who are sedentary have to do something. We had fat people before TV; they just did something else while they sat around. Here TV is a proxy for getting up and burning some calories.

That's not to say that watching a lot of TV isn't bad for preschoolers on other levels, but it may not be the proximate cause of preschool obesity.

Of course, I have to beat my hobbyhorse. A bug chunk of how fat you are is biologically determined, and I don't just mean your body translates dairy fat into human fat. Various hormones tell you when you are hungry and when you are not, and some people's hormones lie to them. Notice that even in families who did all three things "right," still 1 kid in 7 was fat.

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