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Study links heavy dads to kids' obesity risk

Children might be at higher risk for obesity if Dad is overweight, a study suggests.

Other studies have shown an association between two overweight parents and higher weight in their children, and weight relationships between fathers and sons and mothers and daughters. Researchers in this study, published in the January issue of the International Journal of Obesity, measured the height and weight of children from 3,285 two-parent families in Australia in 2004, when the children were ages 4 and 5, and again in 2008 when they were ages 8 and 9.

Parents self-reported their weight at the same points and were divided into three categories of weight according to their body mass index: healthy, overweight and obese.

Having an overweight father and a healthy-weight mother increased the odds of the child becoming obese four years later by 318 percent. Having a father who was obese increased the odds to 1,388 percent. But having a healthy-weight father and an overweight or obese mother did not significantly predict that the child would be obese.

Also, having two parents who were overweight was a predictor of the child becoming overweight. Having two obese parents was an even stronger predictor of obesity than having two overweight parents.

"The results from this study," the authors wrote, "provide evidence of the important role that fathers have in the development of children's weight status and this has consequences for their long-term health outcomes."

Interventions are needed, they added, to see if helping overweight dads lose weight is effective in preventing childhood obesity.