A new study has proven that pregnant women who are overweight affect how their children grow and develop. A team led by a University of Iowa researcher compared the weight and height of babies born to overweight and obese mothers with those born to normal-weight mothers.
Contrary to expectations, babies of overweight/obese mothers gained less weight and grew less in length than babies of normal-weight women from just after birth to three months. The overweight/obese mother babies also gained less fat mass than those born to normal-weight mothers. Fat mass in infants is widely considered to be crucial to brain growth and development. (That may explain why humans have the fattest newborns of any mammal).
“We’ve found these children are not growing normally,” says Katie Larson Ode, assistant clinical professor in paediatric endocrinology and diabetes at Iowa, who led the study. “If what we have found is true, it implies that the obesity epidemic is harming children while they are still in utero (womb) and increases the importance of addressing the risk of obesity before females enter the child-bearing years, where the negative effects can affect the next generation,” said Ode. Six in 10 women of childbearing age in United States are overweight or obese, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Children of overweight or obese mothers, in general, catch up to their normal-weight-mother peers at some point, according to studies. Unfortunately, they also have a higher risk of continuing to rapidly gain weight in adolescence and becoming fat themselves, triggering health problems throughout their lifetimes.