In this study, children of mothers who maintained a healthy body mass index (BMI), ate a healthy diet, consistently exercised, did not smoke and minimized alcohol intake had a lower risk of becoming obese.
Childhood obesity affects nearly 1 out of 5 children in the United States, according to the study authors.
"Our study was the first to demonstrate that an overall healthy lifestyle really outweighs any individual healthy lifestyle factors followed by mothers when it comes to lowering the risk of obesity in their children," said study author Dr. Qi Sun, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a press release.
From 1997 to 2013, these researchers looked at 17,000 mothers and their nearly 25,000 children (between the ages of 9 and 14) in the US. The study included questionnaires about diet, alcohol intake, physical activity, body height and weight and smoking status.
Children of mothers who followed all five low-risk lifestyle factors had a 75 percent reduced risk of obesity when compared to children whose mothers did not follow any of the listed risk factors.
The authors noted that there was no apparent link between a mother's dietary pattern and obesity in her children. The researchers said they believe this is possibly because children's diets are influenced by other factors, such as school lunches.
This study had some limitations. Self-reporting of lifestyle habits is not always accurate. Not all aspects of children's lifestyles, such as exposure to second-hand smoke, were measured. Furthermore, many participants dropped out of the study.
Speak with your health care provider about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and promote healthy habits in your children.
This study was published in The BMJ.
Grants from the National Institutes of Health funded this research. The authors disclosed no potential conflicts of interest.