Generous grandparents ‘are fuelling the nation’s obesity crisis by giving youngsters too many sweet treats, while parents do nothing because they want the free childcare’
- Youngsters looked after by grandparents are more likely to be obese, study says
- Grandparents were found to be more ‘lenient’ and gave out sweets to be ‘kind’
- Experts warn the rising trend of grandparents helping raise children is to blame
Most nanas and grandpas would argue that spoiling grandchildren is in their job description.
But their ‘outdated beliefs’ and generosity with the biscuit tin means youngsters looked after by grandparents are more likely to be obese.
Experts warn that the rising trend of grandparents helping raise their grandchildren could be fuelling the UK’s obesity crisis.
Grandparents were found to be more ‘lenient’ and often gave sweet treats to be ‘kind’. They were more likely to rely on screens or TVs to entertain children while carrying out day to day activities like housework, which would not happen in nurseries [File photo]
A study of families in Birmingham and Edinburgh found these children were more likely to be given sweets and chocolates and less likely to be taken out to play.
Grandparents were also more likely to give in to children’s demands such as playing on iPads or watching TV.
But parents did not feel in a position to criticise because they were reliant on free childcare, researchers found.
They say grandparents could accompany expectant mothers to midwife appointments, or go along to health visitor checks where they could be given up-to-date advice from health professionals.
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Dr Bai Li, of the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham, who led the study, said a quarter of working parents were relying on grandparents. She added: ‘They are doing important work and we are not here to criticise them, but to help them.
‘They want to do what’s best for their grandchildren. We know that children who are mainly cared for by their grandparents are more likely to be obese and consume more snacks.’
NHS figures show about 190,000 – of the half a million plus children who left primary school last year were overweight to some degree.
Of these, more than 22,000 children are severely obese with pupils twice as likely to be dangerously obese at age 11 as when they started in reception aged four.
Experts warn that the rising trend of grandparents helping raise their grandchildren could be fuelling the UK’s obesity crisis [File photo]
Working parents who rely on childcare are putting up with ‘constant pressure’ to bottle feed or wean early, which was once the norm but are now known to put youngsters at risk of gaining too much weight.
Grandparents were found to be more ‘lenient’ and often gave sweet treats to be ‘kind’.
They were more likely to rely on screens or TVs to entertain children while carrying out day to day activities like housework, which would not happen in nurseries.
Grandparents might also still be working themselves and looking after ‘demanding’ children could lead to exhaustion, according to the findings published in the journal BMC Public Health.
Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘The experts are right and today’s grannies should get lessons in what food is now recommended for their little darlings – and what is not. The first health visitor appointment gives plenty of time to do it.’
Doctors say rising childhood obesity is a health timebomb and storing up major issues for the future, including cancer and heart disease.
It is also behind a surge in cases of type 2 diabetes, a disease previously only seen in adults, with nearly 7,000 under-25s receiving treatment for the condition in England and Wales in 2016/17.
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