Several recent studies point to the possible origination of both obesity and diabetes in the womb.
An article in the LA Times last year had a quote from Beverly Muhlhausler, a researcher at the University of South Australia and an authority on fetal diet and adult disease:
“What research is now showing is that consuming an excessive amount of high-fat, high-sugar foods during pregnancy can alter the development of the baby in such a way that predisposes that individual to becoming obese later in life.”
If we continue to wait until middle age to treat societal health issues like obesity and diabetes, we may not ever address the causes, which might already be treatable by changing the mother’s diet or addressing maternal weight gain.
1. Mother’s weight gain during pregnancy is linked to childhood obesity.
A new study of 12,000 adolescents aged 9-14 and their mothers concludes that excess weight gain by mothers during pregnancy is directly associated with the risk of obesity in adolescence. The researchers found that the high birth-weight risk was increased dramatically with a higher weight gain in the mother (35% for a gain of 45 pounds or more).
The study came from participants in the Growing Up Today Study, and looked at the correlation between the mother’s weight gain and their child’s birth weight and body-mass index (BMI) later in life, specifically adolescents. The abstract is here: Maternal gestational weight gain and offspring weight in adolescence.
2. Maternal gestational diabetes may increase the risk of children being overweight in adolescence.
Another study looks at the link between gestational diabetes and obesity in offspring. “Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) creates a metabolically altered fetal environment which is associated with high birth-weight, also associated with later obesity.” The study concludes:
“Birth weight was directly related to risk of overweight 9 to 14 years later. GDM, itself a determinant of higher birth weight, was also associated with increased risk of adolescent overweight, but much of this association was explained by the confounding influence of maternal BMI, perhaps owing to a combination of pre- and postnatal environmental factors as well as genetic inheritance. Thus, GDM is a risk marker for offspring obesity, but to what extent it exerts a causal influence remains the subject of additional research. Such research is vital, because rising rates of obesity in youth portend an increase in GDM, potentially resulting in a vicious cycle of increasing obesity for generations to come.”
Full text is here: Maternal Gestational Diabetes, Birth Weight, and Adolescent Obesity
3. Maternal weight gain is linked to hyperinsulinemia.
An Arizona State University study investigated some conditions during pregnancy that may impact insulin metabolism in offspring. The pilot study looked at associations between maternal weight gain and infant insulin concentrations, or hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia is a condition of excess levels of circulating insulin in the blood. It isn’t diabetes, but is often associated with type 2 Diabetes.
“These data show that maternal weight gain predicted infant insulin concentrations. Our preliminary data support the contention that gestational weight gain should be carefully considered in overweight populations at high risk for diabetes. Controlling weight gain during obese pregnancies may be advantageous and more studies of this nature are warranted.”
Read the results in Diabetes Care journal: Maternal Weight Gain Is Associated With Infant Insulin Concentrations During the 1st Year of Life
For those working with pregnant mothers, education is paramount. Muhlhausler says, “One of my dreams as a researcher is to be able to get the message out that what you eat during pregnancy has a huge impact on your child’s development and long-term health prospects.”