Excess pregnancy weight gain implicated in childhood obesity

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Obese children have a greater than average risk of being obese as adults, as well as earlier onset of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. One risk factor for childhood obesity is thought to occur even before a baby is born if the mother gains an excess amount of weight while pregnant.

A new study published in PLOS Medicine strongly supports the connection between gestational weight gain and later obesity in children. Dr. David Ludwig from Boston Children s Hospital and colleagues from the University of Arkansas and Princeton University, examined data from over 42,000 women and their over 91,000 offspring. The women had more than one singleton pregnancy between 2003 and 2011. The researchers tracked the women s weight gain during 2 or more pregnancies and estimated the association with the children s Body Mass Index (BMI) at approximately 12 years of age.

Importantly, they examined data within families. That is they compared data on women s gestational weight gain during at least 2 pregnancies with those children s later BMI. Thus, they greatly reduced the possible effects of different environments on the kids BMI.

They found a highly significant association between gestational weight gain and childhood BMI and a significant risk of obesity in the offspring at 12 years. Even after adjusting for the children s birth weight (which could also affect the risk of later obesity), the association between childhood BMI and mother s weight gain remained highly significant.

This is an important study, commented ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava. These researchers have separated gestational weight gain from other environmental factors that could affect children s body weight, and still found a highly significant association. She continued While this observational study can t prove causation, it agrees with numerous other studies in the scientific literature. Now the hard part starts, that is how do we manage to get such information to women who are or may become pregnant and affect what they do?