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Obesity linked to depressed immunity in children

Research into obesity in pregnant women suggest that children born by an obese mother have higher risk of disease

Obesity linked to higher risk of disease in children. Credit: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly been warning that humanity is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Strictly speaking this assertion is scientifically unsound because the epidemic only applies to those countries which consume a predominantly western diet. However, without doubt obesity is rapidly becoming a major global problem and its consequences have been further demonstrated by researchers from the University Of California (UOC).

Globally the WHO pronounces that 42 million children under the age of five are clinically obese. Additionally such findings ought to be viewed against a further statistic which establishes that 60% of all U.S women of child bearing age are overweight or obese. The consequences of obesity are well documented but its impact on the unborn less so, at least until very recently.

The team from the UOC has published research in the journal of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology which suggests that if you are obese and pregnant then the off-spring will be born with a compromised immune system. As if that wasn’t bad enough the negative impacts happen very early in the nine month gestation period. The research suggests that children born to obese mothers are at increased risk of respiratory complaints including asthma as well as the conditions associated with chronic obesity.

There are many studies linking obesity during pregnancy to increased incidence of cardiovascular complaints and asthma in young children. This new research is the first which suggests a possible link between changes in the immune system function and increased susceptibility to disease as result of obesity on the part of the mother. The research team established that specialist cells of the immune system were less responsive to antigens if the immune cells came from the children of obese mothers.

The researchers see their findings as a baseline from which to promote and demand further action on the entire obesity issue. In short, doctors explain to their expectant mothers the dangers of smoking, drinking and taking drugs whilst pregnant. This research suggests that with great urgency the dangers of obesity should be increasingly highlighted in the same context.