Feb. 20 (UPI) -- A new study from the University of Sussex in England has found that 35 to 40 percent of a child's body mass index, or BMI, is inherited from their parents.
That number rises to 55 to 60 percent for the most obese children. Results show that more than half of obesity is determined by genetics and family environment.
Researchers examined height and weight data of 100,000 children and their parents from the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Indonesia, Spain and Mexico.
Results showed that intergenerational transmission of BMI was equally 20 percent from the mother and 20 percent from the father.
The study found the parental effect on BMI was lowest for the thinnest children and highest for the most obese children. In the thinnest children, BMI was 10 percent due to their mother and 10 percent due to their father, but for obese children, BMI was closer to 30 percent due to each parent.
"Our evidence comes from trawling data from across the world with very diverse patterns of nutrition and obesity -- from one of the most obese populations -- USA -- to two of the least obese countries in world -- China and Indonesia," Professor Peter Dolton of the University of Sussex and author of the study, said in a press release.
"This gives an important and rare insight into how obesity is transmitted across generations in both developed and developing countries. We found that the process of intergenerational transmission is the same across all the different countries."
The pattern in BMI transmission was consistent among the countries regardless of economic development, industrialization or economy.
"This shows that the children of obese parents are much more likely to be obese themselves when they grow up -- the parental effect is more than double for the most obese children what it is for the thinnest children," Dolton said. "These findings have far-reaching consequences for the health of the world's children. They should make us rethink the extent to which obesity is the result of family factors, and our genetic inheritance, rather than decisions made by us as individuals."
The study was published in Economics and Human Biology.