A research group from Belgium investigated the association between maternal BMI (body mass index) and telomere length of the newborn and found that a higher pre-pregnancy maternal BMI was associated with a decrease in the telomere length of the newborn.


A telomere is the terminal structure of the chromosome and is important in sustaining genomic stability. Telomere length is considered as a biomarker that has been associated with biological aging and age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases. Telomere length is highly variable and is determined by hereditary and environmental factors. Recent findings have shown that environmental factor in utero may influence telomere length in newborns. Maternal obesity is a risk factor in many adverse pregnancy outcomes and it might be a factor in determining telomere length.

A new research, published in the BioMed Central Medicine, studied 743 mother-newborn pairs between 2010 and 2015 from the ENVIRONAGE (ENVIRonmental influence ON AGEing in early life) birth cohort. Umbilical cord blood and placental tissue were collected upon delivery, while the questionnaires were completed in the post-delivery ward. The mean maternal age was 29.1 years and the mean pre-pregnancy BMI was 24.1kg/m2. 23% of the mothers were overweight and 11% were obese. Higher maternal pre-pregnancy BMI was associated with more cesarean sections, pregnancy complications,and higher newborn birth weight. Newborn girls had longer telomeres than boys. Low maternal education level was associated with shorter, while increased paternal age was associated with longer, telomeres. Furthermore, telomere length was lower in obese and overweight women, and shorter telomere length was associated with increased pre-pregnancy BMI.

This is the first study that has shown strong association between pre-pregnancy weight and telomere length of the newborn. Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy seems to be extremely important for the newborn’s health, as the telomere loss in newborns of obese mothers may increase the risk for chronic diseases in adulthood and may shorten the lifespan of newborn babies.


Written By: Dr. Fanni R. Eros

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