Dads can help pre­vent obe­sity

The Star Early Edition - - HEALTH -

CHIL­DREN with hands-on fa­thers are a third less likely to be­come obese, re­search shows.

Men can have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the health of their child sim­ply by play­ing an ac­tive role in their up­bring­ing, the find­ings sug­gest.

Ex­perts said that if fa­thers were in­volved, moth­ers were less stressed – which, in turn, im­proved chil­dren’s well-be­ing and diet.

Fa­thers also have a unique im­pact as they are more likely to en­gage in ac­tive play with their child, mean­ing they do more phys­i­cal ex­er­cise and get out­side more.

The sci­en­tists, from Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity School of Pub­lic Health in Bal­ti­more and the Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health, tracked 3 900 chil­dren in the US from the age of two un­til they turned four. Those whose fa­thers reg­u­larly played with them or took them out­side were 30% less likely to be obese at the age of four.

And in­fants whose fa­thers took part in reg­u­lar child care such as putting them to bed or giv­ing them a bath were also found to be 33% less likely to be obese.

Study leader Michelle Wong said there was grow­ing ev­i­dence of the im­por­tance of fa­thers’ in­volve­ment in rais­ing chil­dren in other ar­eas of child de­vel­op­ment, and “our study sug­gests that there may be ben­e­fits to child health, as well”.

Her team, writ­ing in Obe­sity med­i­cal jour­nal, said: “Be­cause fa­thers de­vote more care-giv­ing to play­time, they may have a com­pen­satory role of tak­ing chil­dren out­side for a walk or to play when moth­ers, who typ­i­cally shoul­der the ma­jor­ity of care-giv­ing, do not have suf­fi­cient time or en­ergy.”

The re­searchers, how­ever, found fa­thers were less likely to play an ac­tive role in par­ent­ing as their child grew older.

Of­fi­cials are in­creas­ingly wor­ried about the grow­ing rate of child obe­sity in the UK. A fifth of in­fants start pri­mary school over­weight, which in­creases to a third when they be­gin high school at the age of 11.

Tam Fry, the spokesper­son for the National Obe­sity Fo­rum, said: “If so­ci­ety wants chil­dren to have the best start in life, it may not be enough to give fa­thers a spell of pa­ter­nity leave in the months fol­low­ing birth. Al­low him fur­ther time off in the cru­cial early years when it is in the child’s best in­ter­ests to have him on site.”

It has also been found that hav­ing an older father is more likely to make you an in­tel­li­gent “geek” who doesn’t care as much about fit­ting in.

Chil­dren born to men over 45 also tend to do bet­ter at school and in the work­place, re­search by King’s Col­lege Lon­don found. It is thought this is be­cause older fa­thers are a dif­fer­ent sort of role model and pro­vide a bet­ter learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. – Daily Mail

PIC­TURE: BOBBY YIP / REUTERS

WEIGH­ING IN: Nine-year-old Wong Min-hin weighs 49kg at 1.38m. Obe­sity is be­com­ing an ever-big­ger prob­lem in de­vel­oped coun­tries.

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