Childhood obesity linked to poor diet during pregnancy

Mother’s consumption of processed foods could lead to weight problems for children

Photo Taken In Milan, Italy
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Children whose mothers had a diet high in processed foods during pregnancy are at a greater risk of weight problems, according to research.

Women who consumed red and processed meat and foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar were more likely to give birth to children who became overweight with less muscle mass by the age of 10 or 11, researchers said.

Almost no difference was reported in younger children.

Obese youngsters were more likely to be overweight in adulthood and face health problems such as diabetes and heart trouble.

"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," said Ling-Wei Chen of University College Dublin.

"Mounting evidence has pointed to the first 1,000 days of life – from conception to two years old – as a critical period for preventing childhood obesity."

Researchers analysed data from 16,295 mother-child pairings in France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK. The parent would report what they ate before and during the pregnancy, with diet graded on a five-point scale.

The body mass index of children was measured in early, mid and late childhood up to the age of 11.

"Our findings suggest that promoting an overall healthy diet, high in fruit and vegetables and low in refined carbohydrates and red and processed meats, throughout pregnancy may help prevent childhood obesity," said lead investigator Catherine Phillips of UCD.

However, the report’s authors said the observational study did not demonstrate direct cause and effect, nor did it provide a biological reason why poor maternal diet might lead to childhood obesity.