Research has confirmed what many fathers have bemoaned, that along with children comes unwanted weight gain. Researchers at Northwestern University followed over 10,000 men from adolescence into adulthood and found that fatherhood was indeed associated with weight gain as measured by their body mass index (BMI). On the other hand, the BMI values of men who did not have children dropped as they aged.
The study’s lead author and an associate professor of paediatrics and medical social sciences at Northwestern University, said that the findings came as quite a surprise.
“We had done some earlier work that shows that becoming a father actually encourages people to clean up their act a little bit, eat a little better, drink a little less alcohol, smoke less if they are smokers – try to be a good role model,” Garfield said.
The study measured the BMI of the men involved in the research at four different times in a 20-year period. Of the 10,000 men who participated in the study, about one third became fathers. BMI was measured during early adolescence, late adolescence, in their mid 20s and early 30s. The researchers then checked to see whether there were any correlations with fatherhood and an increase in BMI.
Men who lived with their children had a 2.6% increase in BMI over the years, while men who had fathered children but did not live with them had increase in BMI of 2%. The BMI of men who didn’t have any children decreased with age.
While a 2.6% increase may seem like a small number, Eduardo Grunvald, an expert unaffiliated with the new research and medical director of the University of California, San Diego, Weight Management Program, says that this could be significant if the men continued to gain weight as they grew older.
Grunvald said, “I see patients all the time who, when they become fathers, the first thing that happens is their exercise drops off. This study is very interesting because this hasn’t been looked at before.”
Even though men who have kids plan to become healthier, it’s possible that actually having to deal with a newborn throws a spanner in those plans.
In addition, many men also gain weight during pregnancy, a time when the physical activities and eating habits of the couple change.
The study was published in the American Journal of Men’s Health and Craig Garfield.
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