A recent study has revealed that children without any siblings are “7 times more likely to be obese” than those who do.
Conducted by the University of Oklahoma, the study found that most only-children or ‘singletons’ came from families that had unhealthy eating practices and beverage choices which led to their indulgence in sugary drinks and fatty food.
These children also ranked low in the Healthy Eating Index 2010 score which measures the quality of diet—coming in lower on three out of the 12 areas measured.
They also had significantly lower total scores across weekdays, weekends, and on average, indicating there are both individual and collective differences in eating patterns between the groups.
Researchers examined data from food diaries done by 62 mothers with kids between the ages of five and seven. These mums kept a record of their daily food logs over the course of three days – two weekdays and one weekend day.
During school hours, however, teachers would keep logs by proxy for any food the children ate.
Mothers also completed the Family Nutrition and Physical Activity questionnaire to evaluate typical family eating behaviours like food and beverage choice.
Through this, researchers also deduced that mothers of singleton children were more likely to be obese themselves.
Home vs school eating pattern
Apart from that, the study also found that a singleton’s eating patterns at home had a bigger impact on obesity than those outside home like at school or nursery.
This goes against the popular belief, that external environments play a bigger role in influencing a child’s eating habits.
In view of the findings, lead author Chelsea L. Kracht urged nutrition professionals to ” consider the influence of family and siblings to provide appropriate and tailored nutrition education for families of young children.”
While the study offers new insight into only children, it cannot be taken as a measure for all singletons because of its small sample size.
In their upcoming research, Dr. Kracht and her colleagues will look specifically into the household and family dynamics and how they influence children’s eating behaviour, physical activity, sleep, and other factors contributing to obesity.