Mother's Obesity Doubles Child's Obesity Risk
by Tara Burghart, Associated Press, July 6, 2004
For more articles like this
Children born to
obese women are more than twice as likely to be overweight by
age 4, according to a new study that indicates prevention
efforts should begin at -- or even before -- birth.
While obesity is known to run in families, the study appears to
be the first to follow children from birth until preschool to
see how early the problem develops, said the studyís author, Dr.
Robert C. Whitaker, a pediatrician at Princeton, N.J.-based
Mathematica Policy Research.
The study of nearly 8,500 women found that by 4 years of age, 24
percent of children were obese if their mothers had been obese
during the first trimester of pregnancy, compared with 9 percent
of children whose mothers had been of normal weight.
After the researchers took into account such factors as birth
weight and the mothersí race, education level, and smoking
during pregnancy, children with obese mothers were found to be
twice as likely to be obese at age 2 and 2.3 times as likely at
The research did not seek to determine why the risk of obesity
increased when the mother was overweight. Whitaker said likely
factors include genetics, influences in the motherís uterus
during the nine months of pregnancy, and eating habits and
physical activity levels at home.
The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and
appears in the July issue of Pediatrics. It collected data on
poor women and children enrolled in an Ohio welfare program.
Previous research has indicated overweight women run a higher
risk of developing gestational diabetes and of having babies
with heart abnormalities and other defects. That research, plus
the latest study, indicates women who are planning to become
pregnant should try to reach an ideal weight before conception,
ďItís an issue for both the motherís health and the childís
health. Those are not easy to separate,Ē he said.
Dr. Rebecca Unger, a pediatrician in the Nutrition Evaluation
Clinic at Childrenís Memorial Hospital in Chicago, questioned
whether the study -- which involved only poor children -- could
be applied to the general population.
Still, she said the research underscores the importance of
trying to prevent obesity by identifying risk factors early in
Other studies have shown that overweight children are likely to
grow up to be fat adults.
Unger said it is easier to prevent or treat obesity early in
life -- when parents can reduce the amount of juice a child
drinks, or take away a bottle from a toddler -- than to keep a
teenager from eating fast food daily with his friends.
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