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Study finds obesity shaped by burgers for boys, single parents for girls

Excessive sausage rolls and hot chips unsurprisingly contribute to boys’ obesity. But unexpectedly, not so much to girls’, a new study has found.

Researchers from Queensland’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute also ascertained that, oddly, girls from single parent families are likelier to be larger than boys from the same domestic background.

These stark differences in risk factors were discerned from data on 3,500 kids aged 5-17, from two Queensland Health surveys conducted in 2009 and 2011.

Professor Peter O’Rourke, QIMR Berghofer senior biostatistician, speculated that the divergences could be because most single-parent families are headed by mothers. Girls tend to be closer to their mothers than boys. Boys, on the other hand,  are more likely to be independent, and thus organise their own meals, including buying unhealthy takeaways.

There were, however, some similarities between obese youngsters of each sex: they both tended to lack participation in organised sport and have non-university-educated parents.

While the researchers thought the takeaway food findings obvious, this was not so for the single-parent finding in relation to girls.

“We do not know why girls from single-parent households are more likely to be obese,” O’Rourke admitted. “More research is needed in this area.”

Queensland has reason to conduct further research. With an obesity rate of 9 per cent, children from that state are 2 percentage points fatter than the average child, nationally.

As a result of the study, published in Public Health, O’Rourke is urging parents to make healthier food choices for their kids and encourage them to do more exercise.

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