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article imageObese sibling plays larger role in obesity than overweight parent

By Samantha Chang     Jul 10, 2014 in Health
A new study suggests that having an obese sibling increases a child's chances of becoming overweight more than having obese parents.
According to a report in the Harvard Gazette, siblings are more likely than parents to influence obesity outcomes among children.
The study, which appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, flies in the face of conventional wisdom that you inherit your tendency toward obesity from your parents. Even the researchers were stunned by the results.
"I went into this study expecting that, given parents’ oversized roles in their children’s lives, parental obesity would have a stronger association than a sibling’s obesity, but I was wrong," said Mark Pachucki, lead author of the study, and an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
Pachucki and his team drew their conclusions after analyzing data from a survey of more than 10,000 participants. The results indicated that in one-child households, having an obese parent doubled a child's chances of being obese.
In two-child families, having an obese sibling more than quintupled a child's chances of becoming obese. The association was even stronger among same-gender siblings.
Pachucki surmised that older siblings have such a dramatic effect on their younger sibling's health because they spend more time with each other than with their parents.
“Younger children look up to their big brother or sister for behavioral cues, often seeking their approval," Pachucki said in a statement. "And siblings may spend more time with each other than with their parents, often eating and playing sports together."
More about Childhood obesity, Obesity, Weight loss
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