Diet During Pregnancy Could Lead to Offspring's Obesity

Diet During Pregnancy Could Lead to Offspring's Obesity

Researchers have found that a mother's diet during pregnancy could alter her child's DNA, through a process called epigenetic change, which could lead to her child putting on extra weight later in life. So those KitKat bars, salty French fries, and crispy bacon need to be eaten in moderation.

While it is no surprise that eating a healthy balanced diet while pregnant will give your baby the best chance at a healthy life, researchers have found a link that proves obesity, and its related health problems, begins in the womb. Regardless of the normal weight of the mother, her diet—particularly in the first trimester—can effect genetic changes that will make her offspring more likely to gain an excess of fatty tissue.

The study, led by University of Southampton researchers, followed 300 children, from womb to childhood. They analyzed the degree of chemical modification of DNA in umbilical cord tissue and were able to show that the epigenetic changes strongly predicted the degree of obesity at six or nine years of age.

According to lead researcher Keith Godfrey, "We have shown for the first time that susceptibility to obesity cannot simply be attributed to the combination of our genes and our lifestyle, but can be triggered by influences on a baby's development in the womb, including what the mother ate.

Eating well during pregnancy will not only benefit a child, but the mother as well. Women who put on too much weight during pregnancy risk not only keeping that weight after birth, but also have higher rates of complications, such as developing high blood pressure and gestational diabetes or requiring a Cesarean section.

According to the guidelines from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the heavier a woman is, the less weight she should gain during pregnancy. Underweight women, body mass index (BMI) of 18.5, should pack on 28 to 49 pounds if carrying a singleton; healthy women of normal BMI should gain 25 to 35 pounds; overweight women, BMI of 25 to 29.9, should gain 15 to 25 pounds; obese women, BMI of 30 of higher, should gain only 11 to 20 pounds. For women giving birth to twins: normal-weight women should gain 37 to 54 pounds; overweight women should gain 31 to 50 pounds; and obese women should gain 25 to 42 pounds. These revised guidelines use BMI ranges set by the World Health Organization and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

For optimal outcomes for both mother and baby, it is best to be in good physical health prior to pregnancy, and to monitor weight gain, food intake, exercise, and dietary supplements. Your obstetrician or midwife should be able to provide you with the necessary guidelines for a healthy pregnancy.

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