The children of women who do not smoke are less likely to become overweight or obese, research shows.
A new study in Ireland found that children exposed to smoking from their mother or primary carer are 30% more likely to be overweight or obese at age three (and 31% at aged five) compared to the children of non-smoking mothers.
Childhood obesity is linked with several health conditions later in life, including an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes and leaving adults more susceptible to heart disease, cancer and long-term weight issues.
The results also suggested the risk of children being overweight or obese following childhood second-hand smoke exposure was independent of low birth weight and breastfeeding. The second-hand smoke exposure reviewed was mothers, or primary care givers who were smoking postnatally (after the children had been born).
The study, carried out by the University College Cork (UCC), used the findings of the Growing Up in Ireland study, a snapshot of data from more than 11,100 children.
Lead author Salome Sunday from the School of Public Health in UCC said: “Both childhood obesity and second-hand childhood exposure are public health issues in Ireland. It has been hypothesised that inhaling the chemicals in tobacco smoke may cause impaired metabolic and immune functions leading to an increase in the child’s susceptibility to obesity.
“In my opinion, the observed findings strongly suggest the need for informing policies on targeted population-level anti-smoking interventions, especially in private settings, not only to reduce further childhood second-hand smoke exposure levels, but also to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity.”
In some cases, smoking can double the likelihood of these conditions, as well as doubling the chances of suffering from kidney problems and nerve disease.
The findings have been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.