If you struggle to lose weight or to say no to an extra helping of pud, don’t blame your willpower - blame your parents.
A person’s attitude towards food and exercise is largely set by the tender age of ten, a study found.
Her advice follows study of data on hundreds of pairs of American siblings. Some were adults who lived apart from each other, others were aged between 10 and 18 and still living in the family home.
The results revealed that the diet and exercise habits we pick up in childhood stay with us throughout life.
Dr Brown said are attitudes towards things as simple as to whether to regularly have breakfast may be largely set by the age of ten.
'Parents are important role models. If they have an unhealthy lifestyle then their children are more likely to emulate their behaviour and continue these unhealthy habits into adulthood.'
She added that schools should also help children form good habits by providing healthy meals and snacks and sufficient time for exercise.
Writing in the journal Obesity, she said: ‘This demonstrates the importance of early childhood interventions and prevention programmes to promote a healthier population.’
The study comes a day after official figures for England revealed that one child in three is overweight when they leave primary school at the age of 11.
Almost a fifth are classed as obese, meaning they are so fat they risk knocking years off their lives.
And the number of ten and 11-year-olds who fall into this category has risen by nearly 10 per cent in just four years, according to the NHS data.
In some towns and boroughs, more than a quarter of children this age are obese.
Experts warn that many of these youngsters will stay fat for the rest of their lives, putting them at greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses.
Tam Fry, of the Child Growth Foundation and National Obesity Forum, said the key to turning the tide is to stop children from getting fat in the first place.