Sweets from Granny ‘risk turn­ing kids fat’

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - By Vic­to­ria Allen Sci­ence Cor­re­spon­dent

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’

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