Pregnancy weight gain tied to childhood obesity

Pregnancy is an especially important time to prevent obesity in future generations, report researchers from Boston Children's Hospital.

Their study of 41,133 mothers and children in Arkansas showed that high weight gain during pregnancy can increase obesity risk in children under 12.

"From the public health perspective, excessive weight gain during pregnancy may have a potentially significant influence on propagation of the obesity epidemic," the study's senior author David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital, said in a press release on the study.

Obesity trends

Ludwig and his team examined other causes of childhood obesity besides shared genes, environmental influences and socioeconomic factors. His previous research on the subject found that excessive weight gain during pregnancy can lead to higher birth weights, and the new research suggests that this trend continues throughout childhood.

"Children born to women who gained excessive amounts of weight – 40 lbs. or more – during pregnancy had an 8 percent increased risk of obesity," Ludwig said.

Comparing siblings confirmed that a mother's excessive weight gain during pregnancy can account for half a BMI unit, or about 2 to 3 pounds, in her children.

Solutions

Since pregnancy is a time women tend to be motivated to change their behavior, Ludwig said, programs to help limit pregnancy weight gain could help prevent some cases of childhood obesity.

And while it's healthy for moms to gain some weight during pregnancy, new mothers should be aware of potential weight problems they're passing down to their unborn kids.

"This risk, though relatively small on an individual basis, could translate into several hundred thousand cases of excess childhood obesity worldwide each year," Ludwig concluded.

Source: Boston Children's Hospital

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