Is it possible for a mother’s elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy to influence the baby’s risk of being obese? According to the findings of a new study, it is.
Study author Dr. Teresa Hillier, a senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, explained that when a mother experiences excess weight gain during pregnancy, this could “change the baby’s metabolism to ‘imprint’ the baby for childhood obesity.”
Even though researchers are not yet sure of how this change is triggered, they theorize it could be the fact that the baby learns to adapt to an overfed environment, whether from extra weight or extra glucose.
The study’s results were based on analyzed data from more than 24,000 mothers and their children across three states, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii. All the babies were normal weight at birth (5.5 to 8.8 pounds); the team followed their development to age 10.
It was found that the children born to mothers with elevated blood sugar during pregnancy were exposed to an increased risk for obesity. When mothers had gestational diabetes, the risk was greatest because this condition comes with the highest level of elevated blood sugar.
Children whose mothers had elevated blood sugar during pregnancy were roughly 30 percent more likely to become overweight or even obese by age 10, compared to those whose mothers had normal blood sugar, according to the study.
If the mother gained more than 40 pounds during pregnancy, the baby was at least 15 more likely to have trouble with his BMI (body mass index) in his first decade, compared to children whose mothers gained less than 40.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that women gain no more than 40 pounds during pregnancy. The findings of the study were featured in Maternal and Child Health Journal.
A lot of research teams are focused on finding potential causes of obesity, including the influence of genetic makeup. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in 3 American children and teens is overweight or obese.
Hillier explained that sometimes it’s too late to wait until the baby is born to determine the impact on childhood obesity.
The problem must be addressed during the mom’s pregnancy – nutritional and lifestyle changes will “result in healthy weight gain, healthy blood sugar, and ultimately, healthy children.”
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