When Moms Make Time for Healthy Choices, Kids Benefit, Too

Moms invest a large amount of time in taking care of their families, but research shows that kids can benefit when moms take time to focus on their own well-being, too.

In a long-term, population-based study, researchers gathered information from more than 100,000 women ages 25-42, along with almost 25,000 of their children. Every few years, participants responded to questionnaires related to their diet history, physical activity, and other health- and lifestyle-related topics. The research participants also answered questions related to their children’s growth, development, and health habits.

The study revealed that the healthier choices mothers made in their own lives, the more likely their children were to maintain a healthy body weight over the course of the study. The relationship between a mother’s lifestyle choices and their children’s body weight remained significant even after the researchers adjusted for factors known to increase risk for excess weight gain in kids, such as time spent in front of a screen.

Researchers found that the more healthful choices moms made in their own lives, the more likely their children were to maintain a healthy weight. However, some lifestyle choices stood out more than others for benefits to both moms and kids. Based on observations from this research study, here are three tips to benefit both healthy moms and healthy kids:

1. Focus on Physical Activity

Physical activity guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Mothers who met physical-activity recommendations were more likely to have healthy-weight children compared to mothers who exercised less than the minimum recommended levels.

A great way to get yourself and your children engaged in physical activity is to find an activity that the family loves and can enjoy together. Some suggestions include going to the park to play in the evening, finding a sport the entire family can play together, or just turning up the music at home for a dance party.

2. Eat Breakfast Every Day

Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day and for good reason. Research consistently shows a strong association between starting your day with breakfast and positive health outcomes such as maintaining a healthy weight.

In the current study, eating breakfast was one of the mothers’ positive health habits that was linked with healthy patterns of growth among their children. When moms reported eating breakfast every day, kids were more likely to maintain a healthy weight than when moms reported skipping breakfast.

For many families, mornings are the most hectic part of the day. Make your morning rush more manageable by stocking your kitchen with ready-to-eat and easy-to-prepare foods you can grab when you are on the go, such as fresh fruit, nutrition shakes, nutrition bars, or yogurt cups.

3. Find a Healthy Balance With Food

One surprising finding from this study is that mothers who had the healthiest diets were no more likely than other moms to have healthy-weight children at the end of the study. When the researchers analyzed the mother’s diet quality separately from other health habits, the moms’ diet quality didn’t have an independent effect on their children’s weight. Teaching healthful eating habits at home is clearly important, but these results suggest that there is no need to stress about becoming a model of “perfect” eating to support your family’s health.

A relaxed approach that includes healthful food choices, along with an occasional indulgence, can be one way to care for your own well-being while modeling a balanced attitude toward food.

Many moms spend a big part of their day looking after the needs of others. The results of this study show that making time to care for your own well-being through healthy lifestyle choices can benefit your family’s health as much as your own.


Dhana K, Haines J, Liu G, Zhang C, Wang X, Field AE, Chavarro J, Sun Q. Association between maternal adherence to healthy lifestyle practices and risk of obesity in offspring: results from two prospective cohort studies of mother-child pairs in the United States. BMJ. 2018;362:k2486. doi:10.1136/bmj.k2486.

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B Vitamins May Have Long-Term Benefit for Cognitive Function

B vitamins are well known for their role in energy metabolism, but new research indicates that they may also have an important role in supporting long-term brain health and cognitive function.

The eight B vitamins are thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12. B vitamins are essential nutrients that your body requires to produce energy and metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, among other vital functions.

Each B vitamin has a recommended dietary allowance or adequate intake level. This number is based on the amount of a nutrient that is needed to prevent deficiency symptoms in about 98 percent of healthy people. However, these recommendations do not necessarily indicate what intake level may be best for optimal health, or in the case of B vitamins, for optimal cognitive function through adulthood.

Long-Term Study Investigates B Vitamins and Cognitive Function

A long-term study observed levels of B vitamin consumption in study participants over a 25-year period to see how varying intake levels influence cognitive function in middle adulthood. The researchers gathered more than 5,000 participants, ranging from 18-30 years old, when the study began in 1985. Despite the long duration, more than 3,000 people remained active participants by the end of the 25-year study.

Researchers recorded the participants’ diet histories, including food and supplements, at the beginning of the study, after seven years, and again after 20 years. In the final year of the study, the participants took standardized tests to measure different aspects of cognitive function including verbal memory, psychomotor speed, and executive function.

B Vitamins and Youthful Cognitive Aging

The participants with higher B vitamin intakes over the course of the study performed better in several areas of cognitive function, although the benefits were influenced by which B vitamins were highest in their usual diets. The two B vitamins that had the strongest impact on cognitive function were niacin and folate. Participants who consumed higher levels of niacin and folate had similar test scores to people who were four to six years younger. Higher levels of vitamin B6 and B12 were also associated with higher scores in cognitive function tests.

The authors of this study concluded that consuming higher levels of the B vitamins, particularly niacin, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, starting in young adulthood is associated with better cognitive function in middle adulthood. The results of this long-term study highlight the importance of B vitamins for brain health and cognitive function as part of normal aging.

B Vitamins: How Much Do You Need?

The study participants who showed the strongest benefits of cognitive function consumed more than the minimum recommended dietary allowance for each B vitamin on average. However, it’s not true that more is always better for B vitamins. In addition to the recommended dietary allowance, some B vitamins also have a tolerable upper intake level. This is the highest intake of a nutrient that is unlikely to cause a risk from excessive amounts. The upper intake level is typically much higher than the recommended dietary allowance. For example, the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B6 is 1.3 milligrams per day, while the upper intake level for B6 is dramatically higher at 100 milligrams per day.

Niacin, vitamin B6, and folate are the three B vitamins that have a tolerable upper intake level. Thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, and vitamin B12 do not have a tolerable upper intake level as scientists have not identified if there is an amount of these nutrients that is linked to a health risk, although there are no added benefits from consuming extreme amounts.

The results of this study reinforce the importance of getting your B vitamins every day, because study participants with low B vitamin intakes did not perform as well on cognitive function tests as those who met or exceeded the recommended dietary allowance. Getting a bit more than the recommended dietary allowance, especially for niacin, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, may even provide additional benefits for long-term brain health and cognitive function.


Qin B, Xun P, Jacobs DR Jr, Zhu N, Daviglus ML, Reis JP, Steffen LM, Van Horn L, Sidney S, He K. Intake of niacin, folate, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12 through young adulthood and cognitive function in midlife: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;106(4):1032-1040. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.157834.

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