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Children of obese mothers more likely to die prematurely

A new study reveals that children of obese mothers are one-third more likely to die before 55 as a result of heart disease.

Mothers who were overweight when they became pregnant were also 10 per cent more likely to give birth to children who would die prematurely in life.

Carried out by the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen, the study examined health records of more than 37,000 babies delivered between 1950 and 1976.

The researchers found that, for children with obese mothers at the time of pregnancy, later hospital admissions for heart problems, such as angina, heart attacks and strokes, were almost a third greater than for children born to mothers of a normal body weight.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the study builds on previous research that found offspring of obese mothers were more likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

In the study timeframe, one in 25 of the expectant mothers was obese. Today, it is estimated that around one in five pregnant women are obese.

With rising rates of obesity among pregnant women, along with levels of obesity in the general population, the research findings are of major public health concern. This study highlights the need for further research to better understand the biological processes at work and how the impacts of obesity during pregnancy can be prevented.

All the births analyzed occurred in Aberdeen. Records were obtained from the Aberdeen Maternity and Neonatal Databank, which is linked to the General Register of Deaths, Scotland and the Scottish Morbidity Record system. Factors such as socio-economic status were taken into consideration.

This study emphasizes the importance of weight management in mothers and their offspring. In order to prevent the transmission of chronic disease risks from generation to generation, researchers need to determine a way to help young women and their children better control their weight.

The study adds to a growing body of literature that obesity during pregnancy can affect children in the long-term, influencing their adult weight, health and life expectancy. Tackling obesity needs to start at conception by helping mothers limit the impact of their weight on their babies. Research has shown that eating a healthy diet and moderately exercising while pregnant can have a big impact. Looking after a baby’s health in the womb not only increases the chances of a healthy birth, but of a longer, healthier life.