News article

Study shows healthier pregnancies can help prevent obesity

Posted:  Thursday, October 09, 2014

The increase in overweight children worldwide is a serious health concern and there is convincing evidence that this may be partially caused by programming effects during infancy.

More and more research is showing that babies and infants can be programmed to become overweight and develop consequent metabolic disorders, which manifest themselves later in life. To investigate this further, an EC-funded project, called EarlyNutrition, has brought together researchers from 36 institutions in 15 countries to study how early nutrition programming and lifestyle factors impact the rates of obesity and related disorders.

One of their recent studies followed more than 2,200 obese women during pregnancy, and found that some simple interventions can help prevent high birth weights in newborns. This is important because previous studies have shown that infants with a high birth weight have a greater risk of becoming obese as children or adults.

In the study, one half of the pregnant women were given advice and support to change their eating habits and increase their physical activity. Professor Jodie Dodd, from the University of Adelaide, Australia summarized the results: “Infants born to women who received lifestyle advice were 18% less likely to have a high birth weight compared to infants born to women who received standard care.”

As obesity in children as well as in adults is becoming one of the largest health problems, reducing high infant birth weights is one good strategy to tackle obesity.

The results of this study, together with other results of Project Early Nutrition, are now published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism – The Power of Programming 2014.