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When a kid gets fat, is dad to blame?

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At one time, type 2 diabetes was called "adult-onset" diabetes. But more and more cases are showing up in children, likely the result of poor dietary habits and the childhood obesity epidemic. istockphoto

(CBS) Who's to blame when kids are fat? Schools? The media? A new study suggests the blame should be directed elsewhere: dear old Dad.

A study by Texas AgriLife Research showed that kids eat more fast food with their dads, and unhealthy meal choices contribute to childhood obesity.

"Dads who have no trouble eating food in a fast food restaurant are going to be more likely to have kids who do so," Dr. Alex McIntosh, sociologist at AgriLife Research, said in a written statement.

The study - published in the May issue of "The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior" - was a 15-month look at how parents spend mealtimes with kids. The researchers also asked the children to record what they ate for each meal, and whether it was at home or out. The kids' detailed diaries led researchers to discover that dad was more likely to take them out for fast food.

Moms, you're not in the clear either. The study found workaholic and neglectful moms were also lax on their children's food choices - but not as lax as dad.

Why would dad think taking his kid to a fast food joint is a great idea? Ironically, most dads think they're doing a good thing.

"For a long time fathers have been told that they need to spend more time with their children. But often when this message is being transmitted, the message is 'you should be having fun with your children,'" McIntosh said.

Eating at fast food restaurants is linked to childhood obesity. Studies show an average child who eats the stuff packs on an extra six pounds per year.

What should dads do?

McIntosh says fathers need to learn more about fast food's nutritional content, and take responsibility for their kids nutrition. He says dads tend to let their kids choose where they want to eat more than moms.

"So basically all you really need is a dad who says, 'no, I think we ought to eat someplace else and this is why,'" McIntosh said. "It's about a father taking more of a responsible role when he's parenting."

The CDC has more on childhood obesity.