Dieting during Pregnancy Increases the Risk of Obesity for Children

Sep 10, 2008
Pregnant women, who reduce the calories intake during pregnancy may actually have overweight children later in life, the new study says.

According to the findings, the weight problems may appear as a result of the imbalance in fat cells caused by the lack of food during pregnancy.

Dr Helen Budge, of University Hospital Nottingham said that dieting is not a good idea when a woman is expecting a baby or is trying to conceive. Many women choose to limit their food intake, to avoid weight gain during pregnancy, but the baby needs essential nutrients for the development.

Dr. Budge added that obesity is often programmed long before the birth. Pregnancy and post-natal period are very important for baby's health and eating habits of the mothers-to-be may actually determine if their children would be overweight or not. "Processes set in motion early on in our lives can have life-long effects," she said.

The study explains that insufficient nutrition in the womb causes the defects in fat cells which lead to the increased risk of weight problems by 30 per cent. Later in life these children may still compensate for the lack of food, which becomes a risk factor for obesity.

A recent study of 100 pregnant women showed that many keep to low-fat diets with the average daily intake of less than 2,300 calories, advised by the Department of Health. The women, who restrict their food intake, also often suffer from iron deficiency causing anemia and vitamin B12 that protects against brain and spine defects.

The study conducted on rats showed that children may even develop their eating habits while still in the womb. Babies, who were fed a healthy diet after birth, were still found to have a taste for junk food they were exposed to during mother's pregnancy.

While overweight mothers also increase their children's risk of obesity, scientists say that balanced diet is a key.