by Anjanee Sharma on  February 23, 2021 at 6:04 PM Child Health News
Low-Quality Maternal Diet Linked to Childhood Obesity
Research shows that increased risk of obesity and excess body fat in children (especially during late-childhood) may be associated with eating a low-quality diet during pregnancy.

A low-quality diet constitutes foods and food components that cause chronic inflammation.

The research team examined data from 16,295 mother-child pairs in seven European birth cohort studies. The mothers were 30 years old on average with a healthy BMI. They were asked to report the food they ate before and during pregnancy. The BMI of children was calculated for early, mid and late childhood.

Findings showed that children born to mothers with a high quality diet (low in inflammation-associated foods) during pregnancy had a decreased risk of obesity and lower body fat levels in late-childhood than children born to mothers with a low quality diet. This was not observed in early or mid-childhood.

Results also showed that children born to mothers with a low-quality diet during pregnancy had low fat-free body mass levels, leading to low muscle mass levels, in late-childhood than children whose mothers with high-quality diets.

Prior research has shown that low muscle mass levels are linked to high risk of high blood pressure,obesity and combined diabetes. The association between maternal diet quality, high inflammation-associated foods, and lower levels of fat-free body mass in late-childhood was more robust in boys than in girls, while the same was stronger in girls than in boys, in mid-childhood.

Ling-Wei Chen, corresponding author, explained that obesity in childhood usually carries into adulthood and is linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.

He adds, "Mounting evidence suggests that maternal diet influences pregnancy and birth outcomes and points to the first one thousand days of a child's life, from conception to two years old, as a critical period for preventing childhood obesity."

Catherine Phillips, lead investigator, said, "Previous research has suggested that lower maternal carbohydrate intake in early pregnancy can induce epigenetic changes - that is, changes which alter gene expression - in children that may be associated with an increased risk of obesity."

She adds that a lower quality maternal diet may also induce epigenetic changes, which may increase the risk of children having obesity or excess body fat in later childhood.

"Our findings suggest that promoting an overall healthy diet, high in fruit and vegetables and low in refined carbohydrates and red and processed meats, throughout pregnancy may help prevent childhood obesity," she concludes.

The researchers state that a causal relationship can't be established as this study is observational. They suggest future research should focus on other factors that could influence the risk of obesity in childhood, like childhood physical activity and diet.

Source: Medindia

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