July 6 (UPI) -- Fathers are more likely to be referred for diet or exercise counseling because they are overweight than childless men, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
In general, men with children were up to twice as likely to report being overweight or obese than those without offspring, the researchers said.
As a result, they were nearly 15 percent more likely to referred to nutritionists and other specialists for consultation on physical activity, weight management or both, the researchers said.
The findings suggest that "given the link between paternal obesity and child obesity, providers have a great opportunity to positively influence family outcomes, so not just the health outcomes for their patients, but also the health outcomes for their patients' children," study co-author Dr. Alicia Boykin said in a press release.
Boykin and her colleagues at the UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing studied 2,562 adult males who participated in the 2015-2017 National Survey of Family Growth and who visited their healthcare provider for routine or sick visits.
The goal of the study was to assess whether overweight or obese men discussed their weight with their providers and, if needed, were referred for specialist care, the researchers said.
Overall, 89 percent of the men in the study said they had been weighed by a healthcare provider within the past year, said Boykin, a physician at the Pittsburgh hospital.
In addition, 76 percent reported they had been informed of their weight status, she and her colleagues said.
However, overweight and obese men who were fathers were referred for nutritional or exercise counseling 49 percent of the time, compared to 34 percent of the time for childless men, according to the researchers.
In all, 40 percent of men with children reported that they were overweight, while 38 percent said they were obese, the researchers found.
In comparison, 34 percent of childless men identified as overweight and 32 percent reported being obese, the researchers said. Meanwhile, 20 percent of fathers reported being of normal weight, compared to 34 percent of their childless counterparts, according to the researchers.
"Research [shows] that fathers play a central role in child development, but also in their weight-related health outcomes," Boykin said. In addition, "men are willing to make positive changes during fatherhood and the results may suggest that providers are capitalizing on this time," she said.