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Determining the future health of a child may have more to do with their mother's
health behaviors during pregnancy than with genetics, a recent study has
discovered. Researchers found that smoking during pregnancy and/or mothers who
were overweight around the time of giving birth have a significant effect on the
weight of children during middle and late childhood.
The study, conducted
by the University of Montreal, analyzed data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study
of Child Development. Between 1998 and 2006, the height and weight of 1,957
children was measured annually from the age of five months to eight years old to
determine their body mass index (BMI). From the information, researchers
identified three trajectory groups: Children with low but stable BMI, those with
moderate BMI and children whose BMI was considered high-rising.
the trajectories of all three groups were similar until the children were about
two and a half," Laura Pryor, the study's lead author, said. "Around that point
the BMIs of the high-rising group of children began to take off. By the time
these children moved into middle childhood, more than 50 percent of them were
obese according to international criteria."
Mothers who had smoked or were
overweight around the time of birth were risk factors that represent increased
probabilities for their children being overweight later in life, but were not
direct causes. However, those two factors were found to be much more important
in determining the effects of perinatal behavior than other criteria studied,
such as the child's weight at birth.
The study points to evidence that
life inside the womb has important influences on a child's life after birth.
More studies need to be conducted to determine more specific correlations to
childhood obesity and points to a need for better ways to inform at-risk
families to prevent the passing on of ill health through generations, Pryor