Excess Pregnancy Weight Gain Contributes To Childhood Obesity
October 9, 2013

Excess Pregnancy Weight Gain Contributes To Childhood Obesity

The childhood obesity rate has reached epic proportions and is a cause for concern amongst many public health officials. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) this rate has “more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.” In 2010, more than 1/3 of adolescents and children were considered overweight or obese. Many different approaches are being taken in order to address this growing problem.

Childhood obesity has negative short-term and long-term effects. Firstly, the child’s psychological health is negatively impacted. Obese children often struggle with self-esteem issues and can be treated poorly be their peers. As harsh as it sounds, their excess weight can negatively affect their social interactions.

Long-term effects include increased risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and diabetes. Obese children are also twice as likely to become obese adults. In addition to this, excess weight has been associated with an increased risk for many different types of cancer.

Obviously lifestyle and food choices contribute to this problem. However, some studies have noted that a child’s weight can be affected by his or her mother’s weight prior to and during pregnancy. A child is more likely to be obese if his or her mother was obese, or, put on more weight during pregnancy than average.

The Public Library of Science recently published an article about the association between pregnancy weight gain and childhood body weight. Researchers in Arkansas examined the body mass index (BMI) of children from 42,133 women who had given birth more than once from 2003 to 2011.

BMI is a weight to height ratio used to determine whether or not someone is underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese. It is not a perfect mechanism, but it is often used as a general guideline. A BMI that is greater than or equal to the 85th percentile is considered obese.

There were 91,045 children included in this study. Using a within-family design, researchers looked at the amount of weight the woman gained during each pregnancy, and then the child’s BMI at approximately 12 years old. This design was utilized in order to limit the effects of genetic and environmental factors.

Through this observational study, researchers found that for each excess kilogram (a little more than two pounds) of pregnancy weight gain, the child’s BMI increased by 0.022. This indicates a relationship between pregnancy weight gain and the child’s weight. Choices made during pregnancy affect the developing baby and have long-term consequences. This is not a new revelation.

One mother putting on excess weight during her pregnancy does not seem like that big of a deal. However, if many expecting mothers gain extra pounds, it can become a public health concern. Steps should be taken to further understand this relationship. A childhood obesity epidemic is simply unacceptable.

If obese children become obese adults, then we are raising a generation of individuals with low self-esteem and a plethora of health issues. This translates into a lack of leaders and innovators, in addition to high healthcare costs. Long story short, if we do ourselves a favor in making this a priority now we minimize future problems.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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