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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Are parents to blame if they have children with obesity?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • I am the Senior Dietitian and Director of Menuconcepts.  We  provide personalised, one on one consultations and develop individual weight loss and health programs.  We have clinics … View Profile

    The incidence of childhood obesity actually trippled in the decades from 1985 to 1995, and is still on the increase.  This increased rate of obesity is increasing the risk of children developing lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.  There are many factors impacting on why a child may be overweight or obese, including school canteens, advertising, inlcluding the family, which palys a role in this problem.  

    What is important now however is not who is to blame, but how as a society can we prevent and manage this problem.  It is time for the goverment, schools, family and the food industry to get involved.  We also need to start teaching are children at a younger age about healthy foods.  It is surprising how many children do not know what basic food groups are like what a carrot is or why consuming a tub of yogurt is good for you.  If we can treach children at a younger age about what is healthy food, and get many levels of support invoved, changes can be made to develop effective long term solutions to this crisis.

  • Jane O'Shea

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    I am an Accredited Nutritionist and Accredited Practising Dietitian. I am also a licensee for the “Am I Hungry?” Mindful Eating Program, “Am I Hungry” … View Profile

    There are so many factors which have conspired together to have an impact on the growing obesity problem so to single out parents to take ‘the blame’ would not be fair or indeed helpful.  Changes to our social structure, changes to the food supply, and changes to how we view food and how we live our lives today have all contributed to the issue.
    The food choices we make, what, when and how we eat are lessons learnt as children around the family dining table. The role of parents and carers is to provide adequate, healthy nutrition to their children, in a safe environment and to encourage a healthy relationship with food.
    Changing eating habits is challenging for most people so parents should be engaged as being part of the solution.  They should be supported and encouraged to be good role models for their children, offer appropriate healthy foods at home and to promote a healthy view of the food we eat. 

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    Kaye Haslam

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    As a private practice Dietitian/Nutritionist with over 30 years experience I have a special interest in weight management & related health issues such as Diabetes, … View Profile

    Blame is a poor word to use.
    There is however a genetic influence which affects our off-spring in many ways. It is more likely that overweight parents could ultimately produce overweight children but not definitely.

    Our current lifestyles & changes in eating habits & physical outputs contributes most significantly to this growing problem.
    Parents need support & guidelines to make changes for the whole family to achieve better health & weight goals long term.

  • Joanna Sochan

    Naturopath, Nutritionist, Western Herbal Medicine Practitioner

    Joanna is a Natural Medicine Practitioner (Naturopath, Herbalist and Nutritionist) who offers an integrative and holistic approach to health and wellbeing. She applies a number … View Profile

    Without a doubt parents play a crucial role and are early role models for children in regards to eating behaviours and food choices. Therefore better parent education and support on making healthier food choices and better lifestyle habits, are extremely important to deal with childhood obesity. If parents have limited or no knowledge of nutritional basics, then even with the best intentions, how can we expect them to make better choices? Another challenge for them is to get through the maize of aggressive food advertising and, often misleading, health claims on a large number of products.

    Making impact on the obesity epidemic in our society starts with the health of both parents but especially the mother. There are a number of studies indicating that the health of the mother before and during pregnancy has a profound effect on the potential for future child obesity. For example, the 2007 study had shown that high blood sugar and excess weight during pregnancy doubles the risk for childhood obesity between ages 5-7.

    Parents also strongly influence children’s behaviours and habits. A 2010 large national study conducted in the US suggested that preschool-aged children are likely to have a lower risk for obesity if they regularly engage in one or more of three specific household routines: eating dinner as a family, getting adequate sleep and limiting their weekday television viewing time. In a large sample of the U.S. population, the study showed that 4-year-olds living in homes with all three routines had an almost 40% lower prevalence of obesity than did children living in homes that practiced none of these routines. Other studies also have linked obesity to the individual behaviours of excessive TV viewing, a lack of sleep and, to a lesser extent, a low frequency of family meals. Interestingly, each routine on its own was associated with lower obesity, and more routines translated to lower obesity prevalence among 4-year-olds, according to the analysis. The link between the routines and lower obesity prevalence was also seen in children with and without other risk factors for obesity.
    From a few examples above as well as clinical experience, I believe that effective solutions for dealing with childhood obesity need not be overly complicated or costly, rather they could be based on better education and a ‘back to basics’ nutrition and lifestyle approach, combined with supplemental support, as needed.

  • Amanda Clark

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Amanda Clark (Adv APD) is a senior dietitian at Great Ideas in Nutrition on the Gold Coast. She is the creator of Portion Perfection, a … View Profile

    The environment we live in is promoting weight gain in all of us, so I would be reluctant to blame any individual for that. It is a parent’s role to protect their children, so doing what is possible to promote your child’s health is appropriate and expected. This includes promoting an active lifestyle and monitoring the amount and types of food in the immediate environment of the home. Developing a healthy regime and a healthy attitude to food are valuable for longterm eating habits. There are other factors at play, however, that are affecting the entire population, some of which we don’t fully understand, so blame is not an appropriate word.

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    Lisa Renn


    Lisa is an APD with 12 years experience, specialising in helping people identify and change habits that impact negatively on their health. Inspiring change, Lisa … View Profile

    It's an interesting question if parents are to blame if their kids are obese. I think parents learn their eating habits from their parents. I think often that obesity is an environmental thing as much as it's a genetic thing. Certainly blaming parents is not the solution.

    I think that parents need to understand that their eating habits are going to be passed on to their children. So in that respect if their eating habits are poor, if they have lots of takeaway food, if they don't provide their kids with fruit and vegetables or the opportunity to eat fruit and vegetables every day, then that's certainly going to increase the risk that their children will have weight issues.

    Having said that, it's really easy to blame parents. But there are lots of time pressures these days. There are also lots of pressures from kids who actually say, “Oh, so and so has got this in their lunchbox.” So, it's a bit simplistic to say the parents are to blame, but certainly the parents are definitely part of the solution and an accredited practicing dietician can be part of that team to work with the parents to work with the child, because the solution is definitely a family-orientated one.

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    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    We have to admit that we allow our children to be sedentary for too long and too often, which compounds obesity problems. We often spoil them with high fat snacks, too many takeaways, bigger portions, and do not put in the effort to cook home food where we use healthy ingredients. Couch potato lifestyles - watching TV, playing computer games and surfing the Internet - are a major factor. But so is over-protection by parents who drive them to school and stop them playing outside because of safety fears.  Often parents who have bad eating and exercise habits pass these on to their children.
    Whether obesity is genetic or lifestyle is always under discussion. However promoting better eating habits and exercise can only benefit our obesity problem.

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