New research out of Australia’s Monash University suggests that the eating habits of grandparents impacts the eating habits of their grandchildren more than do the eating habits of the kids’ parents.
As reported on the university’s website, a team led by Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute used national survey data on health and nutrition of more than 2,400 students aged 6 to 13 and of nearly 1,800 elderly people. The study, which used data from Taiwan, also involved the National Health Research Institutes of Taiwan.
According to Professor Wahlqvist, “the groups of children who scored highest on dietary quality showed a correlation with high dietary scores among their respective elders.” This finding did not change even when the team controlled for other factors that can influence the quality of the children’s diets such as household income, the amount of time that the children spent watching TV, or their parents’ educational levels.
In explaining why the grandparents appear to have more influence over the children’s diets than to the children’s parents, Dr. Wahlqvist remarked “it is likely that the grandparent generation is transmitting what the cultural group has acquired over several generations.”
The results have important public health implications given the links between diet, obesity and longevity. “Our findings suggest that a decline in nutritional capacity in communities, represented by intergenerational transfer of food patterns, may place community health at risk.” Dr. Wahlqvist suggested that interventions regarding healthy eating habits in one generation could also benefit other generations.