CHICAGO, July 21 (UPI) -- "Dadbods" aren't necessarily a choice. A large study of weight patterns from adolescence to early middle-age showed that men gain weight when they have children, likely as a result of lifestyle changes.
Previous studies have shown that marriage also results in a weight gain for men, but the extra pounds get packed on after a man has his first child, too. This is as opposed to those who don't have children and lose weight when considering for age, income, and daily activity.
"Fatherhood can affect the health of young men, above the already known effect of marriage," said Dr. Craig Garfield, associate professor of pediatrics and of medical social sciences at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, in a press release. "The more weight the fathers gain and the higher their BMI, the greater risk they have for developing heart disease as well as diabetes and cancer."
Researchers measured the BMI of 10,253 participants over 20 years at early adolescence, later adolescence, mid-20s and early-30s, categorizing each as either a non-father, resident father or non-resident father.
The data showed that an average 6-foot man gained 4.4 pounds, or 2.6 percent rise in BMI, after the birth of his first child. Fathers who did not live with their children gained 3.3 pounds, or 2 percent increase in BMI. When analyzing the data, researchers considered for age, race, education, income, daily activity, screen time and marriage status. Fathers' baby weight was found to be in addition to the weight typically gained after marriage.
"We all know dads who clean their kids' plates after every meal," Garfield said. "You have new responsibilities when you have your kids, and may not have time to take care of yourself the way you once did in terms of exercise. Your family becomes priority."
The researchers suggested that since many first-time fathers don't have a personal physician that pediatricians should engage them on taking care of their own health, in addition to their children's health.
The study is published in the American Journal of Men's Health.