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Family lifestyle and childhood obesity in an urban city of Northern Italy



Over the last decades, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in elementary school children has steadily increased worldwide. This phenomenon is also linked to food habits. The main purpose of our study was to understand the role that environmental factors may play in this context; in particular, we investigated how and to what extent family food habits and children lifestyle are associated with the spread of children obesity.


One hundred and nine primary schools, with 6–11-year-old children (n = 14,500), were recruited for this cross-sectional study in Milan (Italy). Children anthropometric data were measured and reported by parents; citizenship, fruit and vegetable consumption data of both parents and children were collected. Time spent watching television and doing physical activity was also investigated in children.


The study revealed that children’s vegetable (not fruit) consumption was positively associated with physical activity, while negatively associated with time watching TV; in particular, fewer hours spent watching television were a stronger protective factor than more hours spent doing physical activity. Moreover, the parental feeding style was associated with children’s attitudes toward consumption of fruit and vegetable. Family characteristics (family size and level of parents’ education) and children gender were associated to the risk of being overweight/obese.


Our findings support the relevance of environmental factors in childhood food consumption and BMI distribution among children in an urban city. This is the reason why we stress the need to design ad hoc interventions, which should be developed in accordance with the socio-economic peculiarities of a cosmopolitan city suburb.

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This study was financially supported partially by the Municipality of Milan (Department of Research, Innovation and Human Capital), Milano Ristorazione S.p.A. through a grant to M.O.C. at Center for Study and Research on Obesity, University of Milan.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Laura Emma Milani Marin.

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Bracale, R., Milani Marin, L.E., Russo, V. et al. Family lifestyle and childhood obesity in an urban city of Northern Italy. Eat Weight Disord 20, 363–370 (2015).

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  • Fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Physical activity
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Obesity
  • Television watching