Obesity before pregnancy linked to childhood weight problems

December 05, 2005

COLUMBUS , Ohio - A child's weight may be influenced by his mother even before he is actually born, according to new research.

Results of the study, which included more than 3,000 children, suggest that a child is far more likely to be overweight at a very young age - at 2 or 3 years old - if his mother was overweight or obese before she became pregnant. A child is also at greater risk of becoming overweight if he is born to a black or Hispanic mother, or to a mother who smoked during her pregnancy.

And there's a good chance that an overweight child will stay overweight for the rest of his or her life.

"Weight persists with time, so a child who is overweight by her second birthday is more likely to be overweight at a later age," said Pamela Salsberry, the study's lead author and an associate professor of nursing at Ohio State University. "Prevention of childhood obesity needs to begin before a woman ever gets pregnant."

Salsberry conducted the study with Patricia Reagan, a professor of economics at Ohio State. Their study appears in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers analyzed the data for 3,022 children included in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth's (NLSY) Child-Mother file. The NLSY collected height and weight information at multiple points in time. In this study, children were weighed when they were roughly ages 3, 5 and 7. The survey also gathered information on each child's race and ethnicity, and asked each mother to recall her pre-pregnancy weight, if she had smoked while pregnant and if she had breast-fed her child.

Children were considered overweight if their body mass index (BMI) was greater than or equal to the 95th percentile for their age and gender. BMI is a measurement that relates weight to height. A child in the 95th percentile for his weight is heavier than 95 percent of the children his age.

A mother's weight within a month or two before she became pregnant had the greatest impact on a child's weight at all three weight measurement points.

If a woman was overweight before she became pregnant, her child was as much as three times more likely to be overweight by age 7 compared to a child whose mother was not overweight or obese.

There was a significant relationship between a mother's weight prior to pregnancy and her child's weight. The risk that a child would be overweight at a young age increased with the degree of the mother's obesity.

At each weight measurement point, about 4 to 6 percent more black and Hispanic children were overweight than white children. However, the percentage of all children who were overweight, regardless of race or ethnicity, decreased with age.

"Some children lose extra body weight and become leaner as they grow," Salsberry said.

Children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy were more likely to be heavy at all three weight measurement points.

"Obviously smoking during pregnancy causes a host of serious problems, but this finding adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests that smoking during pregnancy may be a key risk factor that increases a child's chances of being overweight," Salsberry said.

Breast feeding had a slight effect on weight at each measurement: As much as 5 percent fewer children who were breast-fed were also overweight, compared to bottle-fed babies.

The researchers also looked at other factors that may affect a child's weight, such as the age of the mother when she gave birth, the child's gender and whether or not the mother was married. None of these factors had the same degree of effect on childhood weight as a mother's weight prior to pregnancy, race, ethnicity or smoking.

Two out of three children who were overweight at their final weighing were also overweight during at least one prior weighing. Three out of four children who were at a normal weight at the final weighing had always been at a normal weight.

"A child's weight at 3 years is a good prediction of what his weight will be at age 5, and so on," Salsberry said. "Weight states tend to persist over time.

"Obesity continues to rise in adults," she said. "And that risk has increased in children, too. Interventions should begin immediately for children who are already overweight at these young ages."

In related work, Salsberry has also looked at the weights of teenagers and young adults.

"We often see overweight 12- and 13-year-olds whose parents are also overweight or obese ," she said. "It's the same thing with young adults around 20 and 21. There is evidence suggesting that the development of obesity in these age groups may be related to dietary habits very early in life."
-end-
This study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Nursing Research.

Contact: Pamela Salsberry, (614) 292-4907; Salsberry.1@osu.edu

Written by Holly Wagner, (614) 292-8310; Wagner.235@osu.edu

Ohio State University

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.