IT has been the role of grandparents to spoil their grandchildren since time immemorial. But if the latest public health research from the University of Glasgow is to be believed, it seems they could inadvertently be killing their progeny with kindness and setting up serious health issues for the future.

Researchers found that despite meaning well, grandparents can have an adverse effect on the health of their grandchildren in terms of weight and diet, lavishing too many treats, generally overfeeding, not encouraging enough physical activity and not complying with parents’ wishes around second-hand smoke.

We all know by now that obesity, lack of exercise and tobacco smoke are risk factors for cancer and a litany of other serious conditions, and grandparents would doubtless be extremely distressed to think they were harming their grandchildren.

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But this research is also interesting in that it reflects changes in society that give many grandparents more extensive childcare responsibilities than ever before.

With this in mind, it’s important that families are able to talk open and honestly about what is in the best interest of the children without making grandparents feel guilty or undervalued. After all, there’s no one quite like grandma, or indeed grandpa, when it comes to free babysitting.