Grandparents may think they are being kind when they bring out the biscuit tin or serve up second helpings of a hearty home-cooked meal.
Chances are their grandchildren will also love them for the extra treats when they visit.
But spoiling the younger generation may not be doing them any good, according to academics.
Grandparents may be going a bit overboard, as children looked after by their grandparents were found to be more overweight.
A study of more than 15,000 children aged three found those most often looked after by their maternal grandmother were 20 per cent more likely to be on the chubby side.
An academic review of 56 studies suggests that when the older generation ‘demonstrate their love’ with goodies and extra portions, grandchildren’s health may be suffering.
Grandchildren more often looked after by maternal grandmother 20% more likely to be chubby (stock photo)
The review, led by the University of Glasgow, says: ‘For weight-related studies, grandparents were characterised by parents as indulgent, misinformed and as using food as an emotional tool within their relationships with grandchildren.’
However, it was not all bad news.
The authors found evidence of grandparents’ ‘significant’ role in supporting their grandchildren and improving their emotional wellbeing.
Grandparents are increasingly involved in children’s lives as more women choose to work and the cost of childcare rises.
The review, published in the journal PLOS One, looked at studies across 18 countries.
It found parents believed grandparents fed their children food too high in sugar and fat.
TEENS WATCH SHOWS LIKE X FACTOR EAT 270 MORE CALS A WEEK
Research suggests teenagers consume an additional 270 calories a week for every advert for unhealthy food or drink they remembered seeing on television, above a weekly average of six junk food adverts.
The additional calories are the equivalent to eating an extra two packets of crisps or a McDonald’s hamburger each week. Over a year this adds up to 14,000 additional calories – or 84 Mars bars.
Junk food adverts have been banned from children’s programmes in a bid to stop rising child obesity rates.
However, they are still shown during family-friendly shows like soaps, reality TV and sports coverage.
This year’s X Factor is sponsored by fast food app Just Eat, while Cadbury’s is the official snack of the Premier League.
Campaigners have called for a ban on adverts promoting fast food and sugary drinks before the 9pm watershed.
Researchers from Cancer Research UK and Stirling University questioned 3,348 British youngsters aged 11 to 19 about their television viewing and what they had eaten over the past month.
While home-cooked meals made from scratch were welcome, grandparents stood accused of ‘overfeeding’ children.
All those second helpings, the studies suggest, may show ‘grandparents using food to demonstrate their love for their grandchild’.
And grandparents themselves, although rarely questioned in the studies looked at, did admit using food to control youngsters’ behaviour or as a reward for their achievements.
The review includes a 2001 study of 300 children aged nine to 11 from Leeds who reported that, on the whole, their grandparents ‘indulged’ them.
A British study from 2010 found children aged nine months to three years old were significantly more likely to be overweight when their grandparents provided childcare.
In the UK, grandparents are estimated to save parents £1,700 billion a year in childcare costs.
Lead author Dr Stephanie Chambers, from the University of Glasgow, said: ‘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 review, on grandparents who were not primary carers for grandchildren, concludes that they had an ‘adverse impact’ on the youngsters’ health, with issues including ‘treating,’ overfeeding, and lack of physical activity.
These were said to increase children’s cancer risk, along with second-hand cigarette smoke.
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: ‘If healthy habits begin early in life, it’s much easier to continue them as an adult.’