Do Stressed Parents Make Children Fat?

14/08/2014 16:56 | Updated 22 May 2015

Overweight boy eating cheeseburger

New research suggests that stressed parents can make their children fat.

The Canadian study led Dr Ketan Shankardass claims that kids whose mums and dads have high levels of stress have a Body Mass Index around two per cent higher than those whose parents are less frazzled.

The researchers also found that the children of stressed out adults gained weight seven per cent faster than other kids.

Dr Shankardass said that unless the weight gain was stopped at an early age, it could lead to health problems for children later in life.

"Childhood is a time when we develop inter-connected habits related to how we deal with stress, how we eat and how active we are," he said. "It's a time when we might be doing irreversible damage or damage that is very hard to change later."

Dr Shankardass said he was not sure why there was a link between stress and obesity, but that it could be down to parents changing their behaviour when they were stressed, for example, buying more ready meals or junk food to save time.

He also said that parental stress could have a knock-on effect on children and cause them to eat more and exercise less.

The study was carried out by St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto and examined data from the Canadian Children's Health Study, one of the largest and most comprehensive investigations into the long-term effects of air pollution on children's respiratory health.

Parents filled in questionnaires to measure their perceived stress levels and their children's BMI each year as part of the study.

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