Immigrant families are at high risk of childhood obesity

The consumption of soft drinks among children of immigrants is higher, they also watch more television and do less sports. Children from families of non-indigenous ethnic groups suffer more often from overweight and obesity, according to the results of a study conducted in seven European countries.

While obesity levels are rising among children across Europe, researchers found that levels are generally higher among children whose first language is not their mother tongue or whose parents were born in another country.

“We found several possible causes of the differences between native and foreign families,” said project leader Professor Johannes Brug from the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

He added that, for example, the consumption of soft drinks is higher among children from foreign families; while usual meals like breakfast are more often skipped. Children also watch more television and engage in less sports activities. However, he goes to school on foot or by bicycle.

“Cultural and lifestyle differences must be established in the context of family resources, including skills and education, but also financial resources and access to support and health information,” he said. “Low education is a risk factor for obesity in all communities, and a contributing factor for these families.”

“Cultural differences and lifestyle are necessary aspects to contextualize this situation, as are family resources, including skills and education. Also financial resources and access to support and health information,” he said.

He indicated that a low level of education is a risk factor for obesity in all communities, and contributes to it for these families as well.

“We also have to admit that the differences between domestic and foreign families are smaller than the differences between families in southern and northern Europe. National factors are more important than their immigrant status,” he pointed out.


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