New research shows children whose mothers had a high pre-pregnant body mass index or large mid-upper arm circumference in late pregnancy, have a greater fat mass index at age nine years than other children in their age group.
“Increasing numbers of women are now overweight or obese at the start of pregnancy,” said Dr. Catharine Gale of the University of Southampton and co-author of the study. “Reducing the prevalence of overweight or obesity among women before they become pregnant may help break a cycle of obesity from one generation to the next.”
The study followed 216 nine-year-old children whose mothers had previously participated in a study of nutrition during pregnancy. In the previous study, mothers had their height and weight measured in early pregnancy and their mid-upper arm circumference measured in late pregnancy. When their children approached nine years of age, the mothers were contacted and their children were invited to participate in a further study.
The children underwent measurements of height, weight, and body composition. After adjustment for age, birthweight, infant weight gain, duration of breastfeeding, maternal height, smoking and amount of weight gained in pregnancy, a larger maternal mid-upper arm circumference in late pregnancy or a higher pre-pregnant body mass index remained independent predictors of greater fat mass in both boys and girls.
One explanation for these findings is that maternal over-nutrition before and during pregnancy, thought not excessive weight gain, may have a long-term, persisting influence on the adiposity of the child. However, maternally transmitted genetic factors and the effect of maternal lifestyle on that of her child could also explain the results.
A rapid release version of this paper has been published on-line and will appear in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, a publication of The Endocrine Society.
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