Can Grandparents Cause Obesity?

How grandparents may be contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic

New research has revealed that while grandparents can be a source of unconditional love and affection, they also may be contributing to the influx in overweight children. 

Recent statistics from the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) have revealed that nearly a quarter of all children are considered overweight or obese by the time they start primary school in what experts are calling a “childhood obesity crisis.”

New research from Finland attempted to find the source of the obesity crisis by following 9,000 families in the U.K. over a two-year period and compared the children’s weights, childcare arrangements, and family backgrounds.  

Dr Antti Tanskanen, from the University of Helsinki, claims that historically, grandparents’ roles were to boost their children and grandchildrens’ survival chances by feeding them in abundance. Tanskanen postulates that this natural instinct to perform the same role now may lead grandparents to overfeed the children that they are caring for.

This same grandparental support that helped to improve children’s nutritional status in historical times, however, is now believed to be detrimentally affecting child obesity rates. The Norwegian study found that children who spent a significant amount of time being cared for by their grandparents were 22 percent more likely to be overweight or even obese than those who were cared for by their parents or neighborhood babysitters.

Further, the Norwegian researchers suggest that older grandparents may have less energy and mobility, and thus cannot be as active with their grandchildren to counteract against the extra slices of cake they are feeding them.


Whether it’s the grandparental instinct to spoil their grandparents with cookies and extra helpings of macaroni and cheese, or something more ingrained in the human psyche, the evidence seems to pinpoint grandparents as the ultimate diet killer.