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Are Single Kids At Greater Risk For Obesity?

Not too long ago, I blogged about the findings that exclusive breast feeding for 4-6 months was associated with a lower risk of childhood obesity in data collected from 8 European countries in the Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infantS (IDEFICS) study.

Now, Monica Hunsberger and colleagues, in the same study, examine the relationship between famililal structure and risk of childhood obesity in a paper published in Nutrition and Diabetes.

Subjects included 12,720 children aged 2–9 years for whom number of siblings was known.

Single kids were 50 to 70% more likely to be overweight than their peers with siblings when controlling for factors related to childhood overweight, including survey country, parental education, parental weight, maternal age, child’s age, birth weight and gender.

Although single kids had less play time outdoors, a higher propensity to consume sugar and were more likely to have parents supportive of food as a reward and television in the bedroom, the excess risk of overweight among children without siblings remained clearly evident even when these factors were considered in the analysis.

Thus, being a single kid may predispose to obesity, although the reasons are not entirely clear – it may be hard to believe that parental pampering and overprotection may somehow not be involved.

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. I wonder if one tendency to overfeed is because new parents are not aware of proper portion sizes for babies and very young children. Especially now that many people don’t have a lot of contact with kids in extended families before they have their own kids.

    A friend of mine was so concerned with her 3 year old son getting “good nutrition” that when he didn’t want to eat his dinner, said he wasn’t hungry, she bribed him with ice cream to eat the food he wasn’t hungry for. To me it seemed like a lot of food for a 3-year old anyway. I commented, but she pointed out that I didn’t have kids and had no experience – quite true, so I said nothing else.
    He ate the big dinner and the ice cream.
    He is now morbidly obese with many health problems. My friend says he always eats huge quantities, and she wonders why.

    No, I don’t remind her of how she used to make him stuff himself when he was a child – I know she was doing her best, which to her meant trying to make sure he got enough vitamins,minerals , protein, etc etc.

    This culture is nuts about “nutrition” – as if we’re dying of scurvy instead of obesity.

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  2. Yes, he is a single child.

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