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Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jun;91(6):1560-7. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28838. Epub 2010 Apr 7.

Comparing maternal and paternal intergenerational transmission of obesity risk in a large population-based sample.

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Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, United Kingdom.



Previous research showed childhood obesity to be more strongly associated with maternal weight than with paternal weight. However, confidence in this finding is limited by the lack of objectively measured data from both parents.


We quantified the individual and combined effects of maternal and paternal overweight/obesity on obesity risk in children.


Data were pooled from the annual Health Surveys for England carried out between 2001 and 2006. Families with < or =2 children aged 2-15 y with anthropometric data available for both parents and children were included (n = 4432 families, n = 7078 children). Weights and heights were measured by a trained nurse.


Having 2 overweight parents was associated with an increased risk of child obesity [odds ratio (OR): 2.2; 95% CI: 1.3, 3.7; P < 0.001] compared with having 2 normal-weight parents. Having 2 obese (including severely obese) parents was associated with a higher risk of child obesity (OR: 12.0; 95% CI: 7.2, 20.1; P < 0.01), and having 2 severely obese parents was associated with an even higher risk of child obesity (OR: 22.3; 95% CI: 10.3, 48.4; P < 0.01) independent of age, sex, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. Mother-child associations (r = 0.27) for body mass index were significantly stronger than father-child associations (r = 0.23), even after adjustment for plausible levels (< or =4%) of undisclosed nonpaternity. Associations were the same for sons and daughters but increased with age.


There is a strong and graded association between parental weight status and risk of childhood obesity, which is significantly stronger for maternal weight. Parental obesity could be used to target preventive interventions in the preschool years to avoid serious adverse effects on the future health of children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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