Does having kids make dads fat?

Matt Richtel rediscovered a study that I did with Truls Ostbye and colleagues at Duke nearly a decade ago that found that having children was associated with an increased risk of obesity for men in middle age (a 4% increase in chance of being obese per child for men, versus 7% per child for women; controlling for other factors). It is important to note that this is an association that was found as part of a project that was looking at obesity interventions targeted to at-risk mothers after childbirth, including considering hormonal explanations. An impact of children on obesity in dads would seem to be explained by social phenomena as opposed to a direct biological explanation (I think; there are likely indirect effects, like lack of sleep that could have biological impacts).

I personally can identify with the “garbage disposal” theory that Richtel lays out:

It’s in the middle of shoving the rest of the pasta shells into my mouth that I realize how far I’ve backslid. I play garbage pail at dinner (proudly, hate to waste that extra bite), and when I’m making a good-night snack for one of my kids, I usually make one more for myself. A few days ago, I considered eating a piece of mozzarella my daughter had dropped. Onto the pavement. At the zoo.

Haoling H. Weng, Lori A. Bastian, Donald H. Taylor Jr.Barry K. Moser, and Truls Ostbye. Number of Children Associated with Obesity in Middle-Aged Women and Men: Results from the Health and Retirement Study. Journal of Women’s Health. January 2004, 13(1): 85-91 [gated]

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

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