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Parenthood Has No Positive Effect On Diet, Says Study

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Healthy EatingYou would think that having children would inspire parents to learn the best ways to eat healthy? Well, science doesn’t think so as recent evidence points out that parenthood has no positive effect on diet. The study claims that even after the birth of their children, parents don’t necessarily follow healthier diets. In fact, there is not much difference between the unhealthy dietary habits of parents and non-parents. Read more about this dismal news:



1) The Study


A study was conducted by a team of investigators led by Dr. Helena H. Laroche, MD at the University of Iowa and the Iowa City VA Medical Center. This study, results of which were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, evaluated the dietary habits of about 2500 adults. All the adults were a part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) cohort study. This was a multi-center longitudinal prospective cohort study, in turn, identified the existence of coronary risk factors in young adults. Among other things, the study took into consideration change from the baseline year, 1985-1986, to 1992-1993. Changes in term of intake of saturated fat, fruits, vegetables, and beverages, as well as fast food among the adults were recorded. None of the adults, who participated in the study, had children at the baseline year.



2) The Results


Dr. Laroche points out, “We found that parenthood does not have unfavorable effects on parent’s diets but neither does it lead to significant improvements compared to non-parents, as health practitioners would hope. In fact, parents lag behind their childless counterparts in decreasing their intake of saturated fat, and their overall diet remains poor.” The study also found that while the intake percentage of saturated fat declined among both groups, parents showed a smaller decrease percentage in comparison to non-parents.  In addition, there was no significant difference between the “caloric, fruits, vegetables, beverages, or fast food intakes” between the two groups of adults.



3) The Explanation


Whatever little difference the researchers found among the two groups’ results are explained by “a variety of factors” as Dr. Laroche says, “Finding foods that children like and request has been described by parents as one of the major factors influencing purchasing decisions. Given that marketing strategies to US children focus on high fat, high sugar foods, these requests are often for less healthy foods.” There is a silver lining in this cloud though in the fact that the consumption of fruits and vegetables showed an increase over time in both groups. Dr. Laroche has an explanation for that as well, “Perhaps the motivation children provide to eat more fruits and vegetables balances out time factors, keeping parents in line with non-parents in increasing their intake. Children may have the potential to motivate this change, but perhaps in the US parents need more financial support and education, such as provided in other countries, to increase their fruit and vegetable intake further than they have.”



4) Some More Study? Healthy Eating 2


All said and done, the researchers do not believe, even for a second, that this study is the final word in this matter. In fact, Dr. Laroche concludes the study, saying, “This study makes use of some of the best data available, but further study in a new cohort is warranted to monitor parent eating behaviors. The transition to parenthood may be a teachable moment for dieticians and health practitioners to educate adults not only on child nutrition or nutrition for pregnancy, but on changing diet patterns for the whole family as well.”


If you are a parent and have already adopted healthy habits for everyone in the family, hats off to you! But if you find yourself sailing in the same boat as the participants of this cohort study, it is time to pull up your socks and start some healthy food activities with your family. You owe it to your children!


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Parenthood Has No Positive Effect On Diet, Says Study