Abstract

Background

The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adults has risen in Canada. Studies suggest that parent obesity is a risk factor for overweight and obesity in children. This analysis examines associations between biological parent and child body mass index (BMI) in a nationally representative sample of Canadian children.

Methods

The analysis is based on data collected for 1,563 children aged 6 to 10 in the first three cycles of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (2007 to 2013). BMI was calculated using measured height and weight. Pearson correlation, logistic, and linear regression analyses examined associations between biological parent and child BMI and obesity status, controlling for other risk factors.

Results

Biological parent and child BMI were correlated. When risk factors were taken into account, a child’s average BMI increased as their parent’s BMI increased. Parent BMI explained 2% of the variance in boys’ BMI and 12% of the variance in girls’ BMI. Boys and girls with a biological parent who was obese were at increased risk of being overweight or obese. Girls were also at increased risk of being overweight or obese if a biological parent was overweight.

Interpretation

Children’s body weight status is associated with that of at least one of their biological parents. Having an obese parent increases the risk of overweight or obesity among children in Canada.

Keywords

Body mass index, obesity, overweight

Findings

The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adults has risen in Canada during the past 40 years. The most recent estimates indicate that a third of children are overweight or obese. Potential causes include genetics, family demographics, child and parent behaviour, and the larger economic and social environment in which children live. [Full Text]

Authors

Tracey Bushnik (tracey.bushnik@canada.ca), Didier Garriguet and Rachel Colley are with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

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What is already known on this subject?

  • The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adults has risen in Canada during the past 40 years.
  • International studies have found a significant association between parent and child body mass index (BMI).
  • The strength of this association varies and may reflect differences across studies in the use of measured versus self-reported height and weight to calculate BMI, and whether biological and/or non-biological parents were included in the analysis.

What does this study add?

  • Using direct physical measured of height and weight from the Canadian Health Measures Survey, this study examines associations between parent and child BMI in a nationally representative sample.
  • When risk factors were taken into account, a child’s average BMI increased as their parent’s BMI increased.
  • Parent BMI explained 2% of the variance in boys’ BMI and 12% of the variance in girls’ BMI.
  • Boys and girls with a biological parent who was obese were at increased risk of being overweight or obese; girls were also at increased risk of overweight or obesity if a biological parent was overweight.

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