Child's Weight Linked to Mom's Weight before Pregnancy
Women who are overweight or obese before becoming pregnant are more likely to have overweight or obese toddlers and preschoolers, says a new study.
And, the risk for childhood obesity may begin even before a child is born.
The finding was reported in the European Journal of Pediatrics.
Overweight and obesity together represent the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Obesity is a serious, chronic disease that can inflict substantial harm to a person's health.
Women Should Aim for Healthy Weight
Hispanic preschoolers born to overweight or obese mothers were twice as likely to be overweight or obese compared to their peers who were born to Hispanic moms with healthy pre-pregnancy weights, the researchers found.
Among Caucasian preschoolers, the risk of overweight or obesity was 1.4 times higher for those whose mothers were overweight or obese before pregnancy compared with those born to mothers with healthy weights.
In both cases, clinical investigators discovered that children who were overweight or obese at the age of two were also more likely to continue to be so at age four.
"This study adds to the body of current research that points out how important it is for women of childbearing age to develop lifestyle habits that promote a healthy weight before they become pregnant," says study co-author Panagiota Kitsantas, Ph.D., at George Mason University College of Health and Human Services in Fairfax, Virginia.
Thousands of Kids Followed
The data was drawn from a representative sample of Caucasian and Hispanic children enrolled in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, a birth-through-kindergarten program that tracks thousands of children throughout the US.
Based on body mass index readings, which take into account a person's height and weight, the authors found that nearly 42 percent of the Hispanic mothers of the enrolled children had been overweight or obese before they became pregnant. That figure was almost 35 percent among Caucasian mothers.
"These early habits may have a big influence, not only on their own health and well-being, but also on that of their future children," adds Dr. Kitsantas.
The study further revealed that children who were never breast-fed also faced a higher risk for being overweight or obese at age two, among both Hispanics and Caucasians.
Among Caucasian children, notes the study, having a high birth weight, being from a relatively poor household, and having parents who smoke also increased the risk for being obese.
Study co-author Lisa R. Pawloski, Ph.D., says, "This study is exciting, as it clearly shows a link between a mother's prepregnancy weight and the weight of her child. Therefore, prevention of childhood obesity begins earlier than we ever thought before.
Always consult your physician or other healthcare provider for more information.
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A Weighty Issue: Childhood Obesity
At one time, an overweight child was more the exception than the rule. But these days, the number of obese children in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate.
According to a 2006 report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the US has the highest prevalence of obesity among developed nations. The percentage of young Americans who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980. Among children and teens ages 2 to 19 years, 17 percent, or more than 12 million young people, are considered overweight.
Up to 80 percent of children who are obese remain overweight as adults, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Childhood obesity is more prevalent in the northeast, followed by the midwest, south, and west. It is also more prevalent in cities than in rural areas.
Preventing obesity in children requires helping them increase their physical activity and decrease the number of calories they eat. Children should exercise every day and eat foods high in fiber and low in calories and fat.
One way to get your children moving is to get the entire family involved in regular physical outings. You can walk or bike together, and plan family vacations that focus on staying active rather than sitting on a beach. When looking for activities, choose those that will not be difficult or embarrassing for your children.
Always consult your physician for more information.