Well meaning grandparents could be killing their grandchildren with kindness, according to scientists.
They described how they spoil youngsters with sweet “treats” and big helpings of fattening food and exposed their young lungs to second hand tobacco smoke.
The research was into the influence grandparents have on lifestyle factors that can sow the seeds of cancer in later life.
Lead author Dr Stephanie Chambers, at the University of Glasgow’s Public Health Sciences Unit, said: “While the results of this review are clear that behaviour such as exposure to smoking and regularly treating children increases cancer risks as children grow into adulthood, it is also clear from the evidence that these risks are unintentional.
“Currently grandparents are not the focus of public health messaging targeted at parents and in light of the evidence from this study, perhaps this is something that needs to change given the prominent role grandparents play in the lives of children.”
The Glasgow team analysed data from 56 studies from 18 countries that included information about the influence of grandparents on their grandchildren.
Overall, they were found to have an adverse effect – despite meaning well.
In many cases, such as rewarding good behaviour with sweets, they were putting the health of their grandchildren at risk with kindness.
The research found that “excessive feeding” of children was a significant grandparent problem, as was providing meals that may be made from scratch but with unhealthy ingredients.
There was also evidence that the poverty and hunger some grandparents experienced themselves as children led them to believe extra weight was a sign of good health.
Grandparents smoking in the home was identified as having a negative impact, both by setting a bad example and exposing children to second hand tobacco smoke.
Smoking, poor diet, excess weight and lack of physical activity were all known to increase the risk of cancer, said the researchers.
To some extent, the negative impact on diet and weight was balanced by a more positive finding with respect to physical activity, the scientists found.
Grandparents tended to be supportive of children engaging in active pursuits, often providing them with access to the necessary space.
The findings are published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.
Professor Linda Bauld, from the charity Cancer Research UK which co-funded the study, said: “Children’s health can be affected by range of factors, and this study reinforces the importance of the broader family picture.
“With both smoking and obesity being the two biggest preventable causes of cancer in the UK, it’s important for the whole family to work together.”
Source : Chroniclelive