Contrary to the studies establishing a link between maternal obesity to obesity in offspring, a new study has found that the former may not be strongly associated with children becoming obese in later life.
The study led by Professor Debbie Lawlor used two approaches where the first one was whether offspring fat mass is more strongly related to maternal BMI than paternal BMI and secondly whether a genetic indicator of maternal fatness, the "A" variant of the FTO gene, associated with obesity in humans was related to offspring fat mass.
The team then analysed that data of about 4,000 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to find the link between the pre-pregnancy BMI of the parents and children's fat mass at ages nine to eleven years.
The findings revealed that both maternal and paternal BMI were positively associated with offspring fat mass and the effect of maternal BMI was greater than the effect of paternal BMI.
However, the greater effect of maternal BMI was too weak to explain the recent obesity epidemic.
"If true, the developmental over-nutrition hypothesis has wide-reaching public health implications as it means the obesity epidemic could accelerate across generations and continue to do so for some time, even with effective obesity prevention programmes," said Lawlor.
"However, our study indicates that developmental overnutrition has not been a major driver of the recent obesity epidemic.
Therefore, interventions that aim to improve people's diet and to increase their physical activity levels could slow or even halt the epidemic," he added.