Data from participants in the Quebec Family Study showed two key risk factors.
Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April Volume 25, Number 2
Obesity, usually defined as body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m22, affects 600 million adults and from 40 to 50 million children around the world (also see the box below). In a recent study of parental eating behaviors in Quebec, researchers noted that the BMIs of older offspring could be traced to family environmental factors, such as parental eating behaviors (Int J Obesity. 2013; 37:1422). Thus, such changing such factors may help prevent transmission of obesity within families.
Dr. A. R. Gallant and co-workers at Laval University tested the hypothesis that parental eating behavior traits, especially rigid control and disinhibition, are associated with the BMIs ofoffspring and mediate the relationship between parent and offsprings’ BMI. Participants were selected from the second phase (1989 to 1995) and third phase (1997-2005) of the Quebec Family Study, a longitudinal prospective cohort study investigating genetic factors in obesity. A total of 192 parent-offspring dyads were included. Particularly notable in this study, offspring were 10 to 37 years of age at the time of the study; thus, this relationship was examined both in offspring living at home and outside the home.
Dr. Gallant and colleagues found that rigid control by parents and disinhibition, but not hunger scores, were positively related to offsprings’ BMI after controlling for the ages of the children, sex and physical activity, parental BMI, parent age, and gender and number of offspring per family. The authors state that this rigid control is actually a “pseudo control” because it is not planned effectively “and takes an all-or-nothing approach to eating that leaves little room for versatility.” Such strong rigid control of eating ironically may result in overeating. The authors hypothesize that simultaneous high rigid control and high disinhibition lead parents to alternate between “strict self-regulated eating” and periods of overeating. The authors note that in other studies, overweight or obese individuals usually report higher scores of rigid control and disinhibition, just as was the case in the current study. This finding would imply that an unhealthy eating environment may occur more often in households with overweight/obese parents.
Dr. Gallant and colleagues concluded that parents displaying rigid control and disinhibition have the heaviest offspring, independent of parental weight, and that these very traits are impactful in older offspring. Assessment of unhealthy eating behavior traits, specifically rigid control and disinhibition in families, may be important for prevention and treatment of childhood obesity may be reduced.