Weight gain linked to child health


Published: Tuesday 17th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Women who gain too much weight during pregnancy run the risk of giving their offspring health problems in later life, researchers have found.

Experts discovered that the likelihood of developing cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, or type 2 diabetes during adulthood, was greater in people born to mothers who were overweight during their late pregnancy.

Pregnant women should ensure they lead a healthy lifestyle, with even the period just before birth being “fundamental” to giving their children the best chance, they concluded.

The findings are published as part of a major European obesity project, which concluded that strategies must urgently be developed to prevent obesity in girls and in women of childbearing age.

The importance of a healthy diet during pregnancy was highlighted by a study which found that the placenta of mothers eating a high-fat diet offered weakened protection to the foetus against the stress hormone cortisol.

This can mean that foetal growth is reduced and these offspring are more likely to suffer mood disorders in adulthood, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found.

Other key findings related to protective caps on the end of DNA known as telomeres. Having long telomeres protects the DNA to enable it to function and repair, while shorter telomeres are markers of disease and a shorter lifespan, scientists said.

They discovered that obesity combined with high weight gain during pregnancy is associated with shorter telomere length in their offspring and as they get older.

But Dr Patricia Iozzo, who led the project, said that even if a pregnant woman was born with shorter telomeres herself and has a high body mass index (BMI) she can reverse the situation by being physically active and produce healthier children.

The link between developing cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and overweight mothers came from research by the University of Helsinki and Folkhalsan Research Centre in Helsinki, Finland, which followed more than 13,000 subjects from birth in the 1930s and 40s until their present age.

The Developmental ORIgins of healthy and unhealthy AgeiNg: the role of maternal obesity (Dorian) consortium was funded by the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7.

Obesity currently affects one in six adults (17%) in the EU – an increase from one in eight a decade ago, according to figures released by the European Commission late last year.

Dr Iozzo of the Institute of Clinical Physiology, National Research Council (CNR) in Pisa, Italy, said: “The Dorian project has underlined the importance of preventing obesity in pregnancy, preventing excess weight gain during pregnancy, and also maintaining healthy diet without too much fat, all of which can have short and long term effects on the health of the mother and her child.

“In the context of maternal-offspring health, attention should be devoted to the prevention of overweight and obesity among young girls, representing ‘tomorrow’s mothers’.Targeted strategies are also needed to ensure pregnant women do not add excess weight and protect their physical and mental health, and that of their children.”

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said women should try to be an ideal weight before they become pregnant.

She said: “This report adds more to our knowledge about the importance of the environment in which the foetus is nurtured.

“After birth, women need support to develop healthy patterns of eating and exercise for themselves and their family. For women who are overweight or obese they need support and signposting to access weight-loss services to ensure that they are an ideal weight before they embark on their next pregnancy.”

Published: Tuesday 17th February 2015 by The News Editor

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