Extra pounds don’t just add woes for self, but its effects are devastating for generations. Findings of a latest study reveal that children born to fat mothers are a third more likely to die before the age of 55.
Previously conducted studies had already established links between mothers’ weight and child’s risk of heart problems, diabetes and obesity. But the new findings are the first to show that such children are also more likely to die young.
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh looked at nearly 38,000 babies born in Scotland between 1950 and 1976.
Information of mothers’ weights was culled from the records of their first antenatal appointment and was matched with the death records for their children.
Among the mothers, 21 percent were overweight and four percent were obese. While a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 25 is considered normal, 25-30 is overweight and over 30 is obese.
During the study period, 6,551 deaths were reported among the children, with heart disease being the leading cause.
Researchers found that children were 35 percent more likely to die before age 55 if their mother had a pregnancy BMI of 30 or above.
“We know that a mother’s health in pregnancy can affect the health of their unborn baby,” Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said. “But this study suggests an association between a mothers’ weight in pregnancy and her child’s risk of dying prematurely in adulthood.”
While the researchers have failed to establish the cause-and-effect relationship, they speculate that being overweight in pregnancy spurs permanent changes in appetite control and energy metabolism in the unborn child, leading to a greater risk of heart problems in adulthood.
“As obesity among pregnant women is rising, along with levels of obesity in the general population, our findings are of major public health concern,” Professor Rebecca Reynolds, from the Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Research at the University of Edinburgh, said.
“We need to find out how to help young women and their children control their weight better so that chronic disease risk is not transmitted from generation to generation,” Reynolds added.
The findings of the study are reported in the British Medical Journal.