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Association Between Pregnancy Diet and Childhood Obesity

A study group from Singapore investigated if there was an association between maternal macronutrient intake and infant peak BMI and childhood BMI, and found that a higher carbohydrate intake (mainly from sugar) was associated with a higher peak infancy BMI and a higher childhood BMI.


Childhood obesity is on the rise worldwide, and it is associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases later in life. Early prevention strategies are needed to stop this worldwide phenomenon. Research has shown that prenatal diet of the mother may have a lifelong effect on the health of the offspring, and therefore targeting maternal diet might be an effective strategy in the prevention of childhood obesity. BMI is often used to diagnose childhood obesity; however, infant BMI is not constant, it increases from birth and reaches its peak around 6-12 months of age, and a higher velocity of pre-peak BMI and a higher peak BMI are associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases in adulthood.

A research was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, investigating the association between maternal macronutrient intake during pregnancy and peak infant BMI and childhood BMI in the offspring. Data was used from the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes Cohort, collected between 2009 and 2010 in Singapore. 910 mother-infant pairs participated in the study. Twin and in vitro fertilization pregnancies, and mothers with serious health conditions were excluded. Maternal diet was assessed with a 24-hour dietary recall conducted at 26-28 weeks of gestation.

Results showed that an increase in maternal carbohydrate intake (mainly from sugar) was associated with a higher pre-peak velocity and a higher peak BMI in infancy, and also a higher BMI at ages 24, 36 and 48 months. Furthermore, peak BMI and offspring BMI in general was higher in those mothers who consumed more desserts or sweetened beverages than in non-consumers.

In conclusion, it seems that maternal macronutrient intake has a long-lasting effect on the BMI of the offspring, and avoiding sugary foods during pregnancy may be able to prevent childhood obesity in the offspring.


Written By: Fanni R. Eros, PhD



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