Overweight pregnant women risk producing children who will become obese
Monday 26th October, 2009
Researchers from the US say that women who are overweight when pregnant may be condemning their children to a lifetime of obesity and so should lose weight before trying to conceive.
Two research teams based in New York and Quebec found the womb of an obese mother sends signals to an unborn baby which encourages the child, and later the adult, to become fat.
The biological cause of the signal is unclear but speculation points to signals between mother and child which may predispose the infant to produce fat-storing cells.
Researchers from New York suggest obese pregnant women who slim down can help prevent the next generation of children from becoming obese.
In Quebec, researchers studied children born to severely obese women born before or after the mother received weight-loss surgery. The results showed that children born before the surgery were less likely to become severely obese. Those born afterwards showed lower blood fat levels which is an indication of future diabetes risk.
Weight-loss surgery makes the body less efficient at digestion and absorption of food while lowering sugar and fat in the blood. This reduces the amount of calories passed on to the foetus similar to those provided by a mother with normal weight.
By identifying the obesity signal, scientists may be able to suppress it through diet or behavioural changes but for now, they recommend women who are obese should avoid becoming pregnant until they lose weight. Obesity during pregnancy increases the risks of diabetes, stillbirth and caesarean section deliveries.