A new study published in the July issue of Pediatrics found that children whose mothers were obese when they became pregnant are at increased risk of becoming obese themselves.
Compared to children born to mothers who are of normal weight in early pregnancy, those children born to mothers who are obese in early pregnancy are twice as likely to be obese by the time they reach school age, said the researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.
Obesity is well known to run in families, but until now there has been no study on the relationship between a mother's weight during pregnancy and her child's odds of becoming obese by preschool age.
The team studied more than 8,000 preschool children who were enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a federal nutrition program. More than 30% of the children's mothers had been obese during the first trimester of pregnancy.
By age 4, almost one out of every four children born to an obese mother was obese, compared to fewer than one out of 10 children born to non-obese mothers. The risk was increased even after taking into account birth weight.
There are several possible explanations for the apparent link between maternal obesity and an increased risk of child obesity. A child may inherit maternal genes that increase the risk of obesity. Another possibility is that a mother's obesity may somehow affect a child's development in the womb.
An obese mother may also increase her child's risk of obesity by the choices she makes about a child's food and physical activity.
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