Health Buzz: Children's Weight Gain Linked to Working Moms

For good health, watch your waist size, not just your weight; 4 ways to shed belly fat.

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The More Moms Work, the More Weight Kids Gain?

A child's chances of becoming overweight rise with the amount of time his mother spends working outside the home. The more years a woman works, the more likely that her child will have a higher-than-average body mass index, or BMI, according to a study published today in the journal Child Development. Analyzing data from a government-funded study that followed more than 1,000 American children from infancy to age 15, researchers found that for each five-month period a mother was employed, children gained about one extra pound compared to what would be expected. Fifth- and sixth-grade students were the most likely to gain when their mothers worked. "This is by no means bashing working moms," lead author Taryn Morrissey, a public administration and policy professor at American University, told Time magazine. "It is a small effect. No one has found a single smoking gun as the cause of childhood obesity, and our study is certainly no exception." Researchers speculate that working mothers have less time to prepare healthy meals, turning instead to high-calorie fast food options. Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the United States since 1980, and more than 70 percent of moms with young children work.

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  • For Good Health, Watch Your Waist Size, Not Just Your Weight

    You may assume that if your weight is in the healthy range, you have a low risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions linked to obesity. But research suggests that waist size could play as important a role as body weight in determining how long you live, U.S. News reports. After examining a database of more than 100,000 men and women ages 50 and older participating in a cancer prevention study, researchers found that those with the largest waistlines had about twice the risk of dying over a nine-year period as those with the smallest waistlines. (Nearly 20 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women died over the duration of the study, mainly from heart disease, cancer, and respiratory conditions.)

    What's especially troubling, though, is that even big-waisted folks who had a healthy body mass index—a measurement of weight to height—had a higher risk of dying. Every 4-inch increase in waist size was associated with a 25 percent greater risk of death, says Eric Jacobs, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society who led the study, published last August in the Archives of Internal Medicine. What is an ideal waist size? Less than 35 inches for men and 30 inches for women, according to the study. These measurements are considerably smaller than what the American Heart Association defines as optimal: below 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. [Read more: For Good Health, Watch Your Waist Size, Not Just Your Weight.]

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    • 4 Ways to Shed Belly Fat and Protect Against Heart Failure

      If you're like most women, you probably know whether you're shaped like an apple (big waist, small hips, thin legs) or a pear (small waist, big hips and thighs). And you probably have heard that it's better healthwise to be a pear. Having too much fat on your belly increases your risk of age-related diseases like heart disease and diabetes, U.S. News reports. In fact, a study published in 2009 in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure indicates that having a large waist size ups your risk of heart failure, a condition that's often fatal. A second study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that exercise doesn't harm those with heart failure and could actually provide some benefits.

      The analysis of the belly fat research, based on data from two Swedish population studies, showed that being overweight or obese increased the risk of heart failure in men but didn't in women—unless they had a large waist size. A woman with a normal body mass index of 25 whose waist size increased by 4 inches over the years wound up with a 15 percent greater risk of heart failure than those whose waist sizes remained the same. (A 5-foot, 4-inch woman who weighs 146 pounds has a BMI of 25.) Medical experts recommend that women maintain a waist size of less than 35 inches to reduce their risk of chronic diseases. [Read more: 4 Ways to Shed Belly Fat and Protect Against Heart Failure.]