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J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Jun;26(3):196-208.

Low-income, overweight and obese mothers as agents of change to improve food choices, fat habits, and physical activity in their 1-to-3-year-old children.

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  • 1Division of Nutritional Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.



To examine the effects of a weight loss program for mothers on the diet and activity of mothers and their 1-3 year old children.


Overweight and obese mothers participated in an 8-week weight loss intervention encompassing diet, physical activity, and behavioral modification. Anthropometrics, demographic, dietary, and physical activity questionnaires were administered at weeks 0 and 8; anthropometrics were re-evaluated at week 24.


Mothers (N=91) of a 1-3 year old child; body mass index (BMI) >or= 25 kg/m2; non-breastfeeding; age 18-45 years; income < 200% of federal poverty index; Hispanic, African American, or white; and English-speaking were recruited from Special Supplemental Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) and public health clinics. INTERVENTION MEASURES OF OUTCOME: Weight loss in mothers and improvements in diet (reduction in calories, fat, snacks/desserts, sweetened beverages, and increases in fruit, vegetables) and activity in mothers and children.


Weight loss in mothers was modest (-2.7 kg, p < 0.001) and sustained at week 24 (-2.8 kg, p < 0.001), and children gained in height and weight as expected for normal growth (p < 0.001). Initial energy intakes of children exceeded Estimated Energy Requirements (123%) and were reduced to acceptable levels post-intervention (102%, p < 0.001); additional beneficial changes in children's diets were decreased total (47.7 to 39.9 g/day) and saturated fat (19.2 to 16.6 g/day), high-fat snacks/desserts (1.6 to 0.9 servings/day), added fats (81.8 to 40.9% using), sweetened beverages (0.8 to 0.4 servings/day), and fast food consumption (11.6 to 6.6% of meals), and increased home-prepared meals (63.2 to 71.6% of meals) (p < 0.01 for all). Physical activity scores improved by 7% in children (p < 0.05). Comparable changes in food choices and activity also were seen in mothers.


Offering weight loss classes was a successful method of enticing low-income women to participate in an educational intervention that benefited their children. Overweight and obese mothers who modified their food choices and fat habits made comparable changes for their child.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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