the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity recently published a study that found children in China who are mainly looked after by their grandparents are twice as likely to be overweight than those who are cared for by their parents. The study also finds that children who have grandparents “live-in” with the immediate family have 70 percent higher risk of being overweight than those who only live with their parents.
“It’s not uncommon for three generations to live under one roof in China. Many parents rely on grandparents to look after the kids when they are at work, but this can be a problem especially with China’s one-child policy where on child has up to four doting grandparents,” says Dr. Peymane Adab from University of Birmingham.
Nana’s and grandpa’s love are packing up the pounds on China’s “little emperors and empresses.”
The biggest problem there, according to the study, is that the old generation doesn’t seem to recognize obesity as a problem. The grandparents who have gone through the wars know exactly what it means to be hungry. For them, “being fat” is extraordinarily auspicious, and it can never be bad, or unhealthy.
Growing up deprived, the grandparents are more than delighted to see that their grandchildren’s environment is a radically different setting from them, where there is more than adequate supply of meat, dairy, and oil.
“The grandparents give their grandkids food as a form of love,” says Dr. Adab.
"My mother loves seeing my daughter getting big," a woman from Guangzhou told researcher, "I tell my mom not to feed her so much meat and snacks and she should learn swimming, but my mom doesn’t buy into what I say."
Instead of blaming the grandparents, the study believes that educational programs on nutrition and healthy diet offered to Chinese grandparents will make a change.
"Grandparents do care about their grandchildren; they do want them to be healthy," Adab says. It’ll just be a matter of convincing the older-generation that affection doesn’t always have to come in the form of chicken nuggets and red bean doughnuts. And that a trip to the park can show just as much love.
China has become the second fattest country in the world, with 23 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls under age 20 considered overweight or obese. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index, or weight-to-height ratio, above 25. A person is considered obese if his or her BMI is 30 or more.
Photo: jeffdjevdet (flickr)