Researchers say that having a younger sibling before 1st grade keeps the older sibling at a healthy BMI.
In a recent study that was presented from the University of Michigan Health System, researchers say that the birth of a younger sibling when the older child is between the ages of 2 and 4 has been associated with healthier body mass index (BMI) among older sibling by first grade.
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The research was conducted at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital on 697 children across the U.S. The findings also suggested that children around the same age who did not have younger siblings were more prone to be obese than the children who had younger siblings.
Dr. Julie Lumeng M.D., who’s the senior author and also a developmental and behavioural paediatrician says that the causes of the findings that the birth of a younger sibling causes protection against higher BMIs among older siblings.
She said that the causes of the findings need to be investigated further. The study, is the first of its kind to track the effect of siblings in relation to weight among children.
"Research suggests that having younger siblings - compared with having older or no siblings - is associated with a lower risk of being overweight. However, we have very little information about how the birth of a sibling may shape obesity risk during childhood," says Julie Lumeng.
"This study is believed to be the first to track subsequent increases in BMI after a child becomes a big brother or sister."
The researchers have tried to explain the phenomenon with different theories. One of the theories was that the feeding habits of the children improve with the arrival of the younger sibling.
The improvement of the diet leads to the better quality of food for children. Another theory was that the arrival of a younger sibling causes a decreased sedentary lifestyle. The older child becomes active with the arrival of the younger child.
The timing of the arrival of younger child is significant in the fixed behavior of the children. By first grade, the children develop a somewhat fixed lifestyle which is not easily modifiable so that is why it is important that the younger child be born before the child is six.
"We need to further study how having a sibling may impact even subtle changes such as mealtime behaviors and physical activity," says Lumeng, who is also with U-M's School of Public Health and Center for Human Growth and Development.
"Childhood obesity rates continue to be a great cause of concern. If the birth of a sibling changes behaviors within a family in ways that protect against obesity, these may be patterns other families can try to create in their own homes. Better understanding the potential connection between a sibling and weight may help health providers and families create new strategies for helping children grow up healthy."
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.