Childhood obesity is a growing problem worldwide.
And our sedentary lifestyles and use of ready-made, processed foods are both contributors.
However, now a new study has found that this risk is even bigger for children growing up with no siblings. In fact, according to the research by the University of Oklahoma, only children are "7 times more likely to be obese" than children growing up in a household with more than one child.
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 in 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.
To conduct the study, the US researchers examined data from food diaries kept 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.
The mothers also completed the Family Nutrition and Physical Activity questionnaire to evaluate typical family eating behaviors such as food and beverage choice.
And what the study found was that that a singleton's eating patterns at home had a bigger impact on obesity than those outside home such as at school or nursery, a find, the researchers noted, that 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."
However, it is important to note that although the the study offers new insight into only children, it cannot be taken as a measure for all singletons because of its small sample size.