Background: There is an increase in the prevalence of overweight and obese children. Genetic and environmental factors are contributing factors but the influence of parental nutritional state on early manifestation of overweight is not well characterised.
Aim of the study: To systematically investigate the impact of parental BMI on the manifestation of overweight in 5 to 7 year old children.
Methods: Cross-sectional study (as a part of the Kiel Obesity Prevention Study [KOPS]) of 3306 children aged 5-7 years and their parents. The nutritional state of the children (BMI, triceps skinfold, fat mass, prevalence of overweight) was investigated in subgroups differing with respect to parental BMI.
Results: BMI of the children was significantly correlated with parental BMI (r = 0.272, p < 0.01). Children's BMI showed closer associations with maternal than with paternal BMI (r = 0.254 vs. 0.159, p < 0.01). A multivariate regression analysis showed that parental BMI explained 7.6 % of the variance in children's BMI. OR for overweight was elevated in children with at least one overweight parent (overweight mother: OR 2.9 (boys)/3.1 (girls); overweight father: OR 1.8 (boys)/2.4 (girls). OR was highest for children with two obese parents (OR 7.6 (boys)/6.3 (girls). Children with one obese parent were more frequently overweight than children with one overweight parent.
Conclusions: Parental BMI showed only a weak correlation with the BMI of their children. However, children's risk of becoming overweight increased with parental overweight and obesity. Thus, familial disposition has to be taken into account to identify risk groups for preventive measures.