Sweets from Granny ‘risk turning kids fat’
PARENTS have long suspected their children are being spoilt during stays with Gran and Grandad – but are probably too grateful for the babysitting to complain.
And the grandparents may think that they are being kind when they bring out the sweets or serve up second helpings.
But spoiling the younger generation may not be doing them any good, according to academics who said that children looked after by their grandparents were found to be more overweight.
A study of more than 15,000 threeyear-olds found those most often looked after by their maternal grandmother were 20 per cent more likely to be on the chubby side.
An academic review of 56 studies suggests that when the older generation ‘demonstrate their love’ with goodies and extra portions, grandchildren’s health may be suffering. The review, led by the University of Glasgow, says: ‘For weight-related studies, grandparents were characterised by parents as indulgent, misinformed and as using food as an emotional tool within their relationships with grandchildren.’
However, it was not all bad news. The authors of the review found evidence of grandparents’ ‘significant’ roles in supporting their grandchildren and improving their emotional wellbeing. Grandparents are increasingly involved in children’s lives as more women choose to work and childcare costs rise. The review, published in the journal PLOS One, looked at studies across 18 countries.
It found parents believed grandparents fed their children food too high in sugar and fat. While homecooked meals made from scratch were welcome, grandparents stood accused of ‘overfeeding’ children.
All those second helpings, the studies suggest, may show ‘grandparents using food to demonstrate their love for their grandchild’.
And grandparents themselves – although rarely questioned in the studies looked at – did admit to using food to control youngsters’ behaviour or as a reward for their achievements.
The review includes a 2001 study of 300 children from Leeds aged nine to 11 who reported that, on the whole, their grandparents ‘indulged’ them.
Elsewhere, a British study from 2010 found children aged nine months to three years old were significantly more likely to be overweight when their grandparents provided childcare. In the UK, grandparents are estimated to save parents billions every year in childcare costs.
Lead author Dr Stephanie Chambers, from the University of Glasgow, said: ‘Currently grandparents are not the focus of public health messaging targeted at parents and, in light of the evidence from this study, perhaps this is something that needs to change given the prominent role grandparents play in the lives of children.’
The review, on grandparents who were not primary carers for grandchildren, concludes that they had an ‘adverse impact’ on the youngsters’ health, with issues including ‘treating,’ overfeeding, and lack of physical activity.
These were said to increase children’s cancer risk, along with second-hand cigarette smoke. Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: ‘If healthy habits begin early in life, it’s much easier to continue them as an adult.’ It comes weeks after National Child Measurement Programme figures showed nearly a quarter of children are overweight by the time they start school.
‘And here’s a little something to go and buy yourself some green vegetables’