Having younger siblings is not a walk in the cloud. Your younger brother or sister can be annoying at times but findings of a new research suggest that they may be beneficial to your health.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, showed that children who have siblings a few years into their life are likely to have healthier body mass index.
By involving nearly 700 children, researchers have found that children who did not have sibling by the time they reach first grade were more likely to be obese by that age compared with those who had a sibling when they were between 3 and 4 years old.
Being obese at an early age often indicates a greater risk for weight problems in adulthood. Earlier studies have found that overweight children are more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to be overweight later in life.
Obesity and weight problems have long been linked to a number of health problems such as diabetes, stroke and heart diseases.
The researchers have not clearly identified the reason behind the link between having siblings and a healthier BMI but they speculate that parents may change the manner they feed their child when a new sibling is born.
Changes in their dietary habit may have significant impact in children who develop long-lasting eating habits at age three.
Parents may also loosen up once a second child arrives and this could mean less restrictive feeding practices for their children. Parental control may possibly prevent kids from learning to be sensitive to their own hunger cues, which could promote unhealthy eating habits.
"There's a tendency for parents to constantly feed, whether the child is hungry or not," said Keith Ayoob, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "Children can be silenced with food -- and that really ends up leading to a dysfunctional relationship with food. It's a very quick fix."
The researchers likewise think that children may start to engage in more active play and less on sedentary times once they get a new sibling and this contributes to their healthier body mass index.
The researchers said that the findings of the study may potentially help in identifying new ways to help children grow healthier.
"Better understanding the potential connection between a sibling and weight may help health providers and families create new strategies for helping children grow up healthy," said study researcher Julie Lumeng, from University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.