Researchers at the University of Sussex found that between 35 and 40 percent of how fat or thin children are may stem from their parents’ genes. For obese children, the influence was even more pronounced, as the proportion of their weight due to their inherited genes was around 55 to 60 percent, according to a news release.
Overall, researchers observed that 20 percent of a child’s body mass index (BMI), a measurement for body weight, was due to the mother, while the other 20 percent was due to the father.
Study authors drew their results from data regarding the height and weight of about 100,000 children and their parents in six countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, China, Mexico and Spain.
"This gives an important and rare insight into how obesity is transmitted across generations in both developed and developing countries,” lead author Peter Dolton of the University of Sussex, an economics professor specializing in education, health and labor, said in the release. "We found that the process of intergenerational transmission is the same across all the different countries.”
Obesity is linked with an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.
To maintain a healthy weight, the Mayo Clinic recommends 150 to 300 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity activity, like swimming and speed walking, following a healthy and regimented eating plan, and regularly monitoring your weight.
However, for many of us, those healthy habits may only go so far, the current study suggests.
"These findings have far-reaching consequences for the health of the world's children,” Dolton said. “They should make us rethink the extent to which obesity is the result of family factors, and our genetic inheritance, rather than decisions made by us as individuals."