The eating “sins” of pregnant mothers may be visited upon their children – even
when the offspring reach adulthood, according to new research conducted jointly
by the the University of Washington in Seattle and the Hebrew
University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community
It has been shown for some time that a higher than normal body
mass index (BMI), which measures body fat based on height and weight, during
pregnancy can lead to overweight children and teenagers, but this has now been
shown to have long-lasting health consequences for the children. The researchers
found a direct correlation between maternal overweight and greater tendencies in
their adult children toward overweight and other life-risking factors, such as
high blood pressure and excess blood sugar and fat levels.
published recently in the Circulation journal, was based on analysis of clinical
information on 1,400 people born in Jerusalem between the years of 1974 and
1976. The data included the women’s weights before and during pregnancy and the
weight of their newborns.
The researchers also collected the grown
children’s clinical data at the age of 32, including their weight, blood
pressure and blood sugar and fat levels, plus BMI and hip width.
results of the research showed a clear influence of the mothers’ overweight on
their children’s overweight, which in turn affected other risk factors in
adulthood. Therefore, the researchers concluded that avoiding weight issues in
adulthood could potentially reduce those additional risk factors associated with
pre-pregnancy and pregnancy overweight.
Children of mothers who gained
more than 14 kilograms during pregnancy were found to have a higher BMI than
those who were born to mothers who did not gain more than nine kilograms during
gestation. In addition, the adult children of overweight pregnant mothers had
hip widths nearly 10 centimeters more, on average, than those who were born to
mothers who were not overweight.
Similar comparisons were made regarding
blood sugar and fat levels, all indicating that those born to overweight mothers
had detrimental characteristics regarding their health and life expectancies as
compared to those born to mothers who had not gained excessive
Additional factors that require further study and could also have
an influence on the phenomenon include analogous genetic traits of the mother
and child as well as environmental influences during pregnancy.
now that events occurring early in life to fetuses have long-lasting
consequences for the health of the adult person,” said lead Jerusalem researcher
Dr. Hagit Hochner.
Braun School of Public Health dean Prof. Orly Manor,
who also was involved in the project, said, “In an age of an ‘overweight
epidemic’ in the world, it is important to know the factors that are involved in
leading to overweight and other health risks. This understanding makes it
essential that we identify those early windows of opportunity in which we can
intervene in order to reduce the risks of chronic illness later in life.”