A recent study by the US health group Kaiser Permanente has revealed that children born to mothers who put on excess weight during pregnancy are more likely to become overweight or obese.
The group published the findings in the journal Maternal and Child Health after following 24,000 women for ten years.
It is the largest study to be done on this issue and the first to prove that excess weight gain increases the chance of childhood obesity even if the babies were born at a normal weight.
Previous studies had shown that excess weight gain increases a woman's risk of delivering a heavier than normal baby but now this new research has shown that it is also a risk factor for babies at a normal weight.
Lead author and senior investigator with the health group, Teresa Hillier said in the research:
“When women have elevated blood sugar and gain excess weight during pregnancy, it seems to change the baby’s metabolism to ‘imprint’ the baby for childhood obesity,”
“We’re not sure yet of the exact mechanism of this change, but it appears the baby is adapting to an overfed environment, whether from glucose or extra weight.”
She said that this all proves the effect on the baby's metabolism when in the womb may be as important as when the child is born.
“We can’t wait until the baby is born to determine and address the impact on childhood obesity,” Teresa said.
“We need to intervene during the mom’s pregnancy to help her with nutritional and lifestyle changes that will result in healthy weight gain, healthy blood sugar and ultimately, healthy children.”