Babies of obese mothers tend to be born
with more fat, especially around their middles, than babies with leaner
mothers, according to a new study.
"There are differences in body
composition, already at birth between obese women's babies and normal weight
women's babies," Emma Carlsen told Reuters Health in an email.
She led the study at Hvidovre Hospital at
the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
"It is important to notice that our
study does not examine if there are any long term implications of these
findings, and, therefore, follow-up studies are needed," Carlsen said.
Read: Scale back weight gain in pregnancy
Among adults, having more belly fat is
linked to a greater chance of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes
and heart disease.
"We don't know if fat location in
infants is important, although our finding is interesting," Carlsen said.
She and her colleagues recruited 231 obese
and 80 normal-weight mothers who had participated in a prior study on obesity
They measured the women's newborns and
assessed their body composition using so-called dual-energy X-ray
absorptiometry, or DXA scanning.
The researchers found that infants born to
obese mothers were on average more than 6 ounces heavier at birth with 2.5
percent more body fat than infants whose mothers were of a healthy weight.
Read: Stress during pregnancy may affect a child's obesity
What's more, babies born to obese mothers
had about half an ounce more fat around their bellies, according to findings
published in Acta Paediatrica.
Babies whose mothers gained more weight
during pregnancy also tended to be born with more fat, regardless of the
mother's pre-pregnancy weight.
"This is a relatively small study,
and it can be hard to extrapolate findings - however it adds to a growing body
of evidence that shows differences in body composition in babies born to obese
mothers," Sian Robinson told Reuters Health in an email.
Robinson, who has studied infant and
childhood obesity at the University of Southampton in the UK, wasn't involved
in the current research.
Read: Smoking and extra weight in pregnancy tied to obesity throughout childhood
"To date there have been relatively
few studies of body composition determined using DXA and we don't yet know what
the differences described in babies signify in later life," she said.
Robinson's own work has suggested that
children's body composition may change more over the first few years of life
than later in childhood.
Currently there is a lot of interest in
whether excess weight gain during pregnancy can be prevented, Robinson added.
However, Carlsen said, "Our study
indicates that it might be more effective to lose weight before becoming
pregnant than to restrict gestational weight gain, if you want to affect
offspring body composition."
According to the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors should encourage obese women to lose
weight through diet, exercise and behavioural changes before becoming pregnant.
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