Mom's weight gain during pregnancy tied to childhood obesity

October 1, 2013, Children's Hospital Boston

A study of 41,133 mothers and their children in Arkansas has shown that high pregnancy weight gain increases the risk of obesity in those children through age 12. The findings, published Oct. 1 in PLoS Medicine, suggest pregnancy may be an especially important time to prevent obesity in the next generation.

"From the public health perspective, excessive weight gain during pregnancy may have a potentially significant influence on propagation of the ," says the study's senior author David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital.

Programs to limit pregnancy weight gain could help prevent some cases of . "Pregnancy presents an attractive target for programs, because women tend to be particularly motivated to change behavior during this time," says Ludwig.

Researchers have previously observed a familial tendency toward obesity. Children with mothers who are obese, or gain too much weight during pregnancy, are more likely to be obese themselves. However, this relationship may be due to confounding factors such as shared genes, common environmental influences and socioeconomic and demographic considerations, rather than any direct biological effects of maternal overnutrition.

Ludwig, together with coauthors Janet Currie, PhD, director of the Center for Health and Well Being, Princeton University and Heather Rouse, PhD, of Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), used a novel study design to examine other causes of childhood obesity. They linked the birth records of mothers with two or more to school records that included the child's body mass index (BMI) at an average age of 11.9 years, and then made statistical comparisons between siblings.

Comparing siblings minimizes the conventional sources of confounding, because on average siblings have the same relative distribution of obesity genes, the same home environment and same socioeconomic and demographic influences.

The current study extends results of an earlier study that Ludwig led, which showed that in pregnancy increased the birth weight of the infant. The effect of maternal weight gain apparently continues through childhood and accounts for half a BMI unit, or about 2 to 3 lbs., between children of women with the least to the most pregnancy weight gain.

"Excessive pregnancy may make a significant contribution to the obesity epidemic," says Ludwig. "Children born to women who gained excessive amounts of weight—40 lbs. or more-during pregnancy had an 8 percent increased risk of obesity," says Ludwig. This risk, though relatively small on an individual basis, could translate into several hundred thousand cases of excess childhood worldwide each year.

Explore further: Body image impacts on weight gain during pregnancy

More information: Ludwig DS, Rouse HL, Currie J (2013) Pregnancy Weight Gain and Childhood Body Weight: A Within-Family Comparison. PLoS Med 10(10): e1001521.DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001521

Related Stories

Body image impacts on weight gain during pregnancy

September 30, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—How women perceive their bodies during pregnancy and how that impacts on their weight gain has been the subject of a new study by University of Adelaide researchers.

Obese mums may pass health risks on to grandchildren

June 5, 2013
Health problems linked to obesity—like heart disease and diabetes—could skip an entire generation, a new study suggests.

Obesity, excess weight gain during pregnancy linked to heavier babies in African-American women

February 11, 2013
Epidemiologists at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have found that pre-pregnancy obesity and excess weight gain during pregnancy in African-American women are associated with an increased risk of giving ...

Lose weight between babies, study suggests

June 3, 2013
The time between pregnancies is a golden window for obese women to lose weight, a Saint Louis University study finds.

Children of obese mothers at greater risk of early heart death as adults

August 13, 2013
Children of obese and overweight women have a higher risk of early cardiovascular death as adults, finds a study published on BMJ website today.

Pre-pregnancy BMI important indicator of offspring obesity

April 17, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Maternal gestational weight gain (GWG) during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy correlates with body mass index (BMI)-based overweight/obesity and abdominal obesity at age 16, but maternal pre-pregnancy BMI is ...

Recommended for you

Food for thought: How the brain reacts to food may be linked to overeating

July 19, 2018
The reason why some people find it so hard to resist finishing an entire bag of chips or bowl of candy may lie with how their brain responds to food rewards, leaving them more vulnerable to overeating.

Children are less likely to be obese if mothers stick to a healthy lifestyle

July 4, 2018
Children of mothers who follow a healthy lifestyle have a substantially lower risk of developing obesity than children of mothers who don't make healthy lifestyle choices, finds a study published in The BMJ.

Normalisation of 'plus-size' risks hidden danger of obesity, study finds

June 22, 2018
New research warns that the normalisation of 'plus-size' body shapes may be leading to an increasing number of people underestimating their weight—undermining efforts to tackle England's ever-growing obesity problem.

Nearly all adolescents have eating, activity or weight-related issues

June 22, 2018
A new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that nearly all young people have struggles with eating, activity and weight as they move from adolescence to adulthood.

Obesity plagues rural America

June 19, 2018
(HealthDay)—Country folk are being hit harder by the U.S. obesity epidemic than city dwellers, two new government studies show.

Binging, purging and fasting more common in overweight, obese young adults

June 12, 2018
Young adults who are overweight or obese are twice as likely as their leaner peers to binge and purge, use laxatives or diuretics, or force themselves to vomit as a means of controlling their weight, according to a new study ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.