"Obesity in childhood often carries on into adulthood and is associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases."
The diet a mother keeps may affect her child in more ways than simply through example. Researchers in Ireland have a found a link that shows how a woman's choice of food during pregnancy plays a role in the long-term health of her offspring.
In their new report, published in the journal BMC Medicine, a team from The University College Dublin discovered that moms who eat a low quality diet, rich with foods associated with chronic inflammation, while pregnant go on to see a link to an increased risk of obesity in their children. The results were found to be especially prevalent during late-childhood.
A corresponding author of the paper, Ling-Wei Chen, explained, "Obesity in childhood often carries on into adulthood and is associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Mounting evidence suggests that maternal diet influences pregnancy and birth outcomes and points to the first one thousand days of a child's life, from conception to two years old, as a critical period for preventing childhood obesity. Our research indicates that children born to mothers who eat a low-quality diet, high in inflammation-associated foods, during pregnancy may be more likely to have obesity or excess body fat in late childhood than those born to mothers who eat a high-quality diet low in inflammation-associated foods."
Previous studies have long stated that by identifying early-life risk factors for obesity, we can help to prevent it early. There has been many case studies in how a maternal diet during pregnancy could influence these outcomes, as it is usually viewed as the primary source of fetal energy.
The analysis was conducted by pouring through data which had been collected from 16,295 mother-child pairs in seven different European studies. The subjects came from Ireland, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Poland, and the average age of mothers involved was 30-years-old with most reporting a healthy body mass index. Those mothers then documented what foods they ate before and during their pregnancies. From there, the team examined the quality of their diets and whether they were high in foods that promoted chronic inflammation. According to Healthline, some of these foods may include sugar, trans fats, vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates, processed meats, and alcohol. The BMI of the children were reported for early, mid and late childhood.
The results showed that children born to mothers who consume foods associated with inflammation while pregnant had less areas of fat-free body mass and less overall muscle mass by late-childhood when contrasted with those born to mothers who low-inflammation-associated foods.
As is the case with many reports based on past data, the authors note that the observational nature makes it less direct in terms of conclusions about the relationship between maternal diet and childhood obesity and excess body fat. It does, however, call for future research in order to get more details and a better understanding of how the correlation plays out, taking into account factors such as childhood physical activity and diet.