Skip to main content

Children of obese mothers at greater risk of early heart death as adults

The body of evidence for the developmental origins of health and disease is growing. It has now long been established that maternal diet can influence fetal metabolic development and growth and that this has consequences for health of the offspring later in life.

Now a new study published on bmj.com today finds that children of obese and overweight women have a higher risk of early cardiovascular death as adults.

The findings highlight the urgent need for strategies to prevent obesity in women of childbearing age and the need to assess the offspring of obese mothers for their cardiovascular risk, say the authors.

Rates of maternal obesity have risen rapidly in the past two decades. In the United States, about 64% of women of reproductive age are overweight and 35% are obese, with a similar pattern in Europe.

Many studies have shown a link between maternal obesity and disease later in life, but it is still not clear whether maternal obesity is associated with increased death in offspring from cardiovascular causes.

Using birth and death records from 1950 to the present day, a team of researchers in Scotland identified 28,540 women - whose body mass index (BMI) was recorded at their first antenatal visit - and their 37,709 offspring who were aged between 34 and 61 at the time of follow up.

BMI was defined as underweight (BMI 18.5 or less), normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9), overweight (BMI 25-29.9), and obese (BMI 30 or more).

Relevant details about the pregnancy were collated, including the mother’s age at delivery, number of previous pregnancies, mother and father’s social class and infant sex, birth weight and gestation at delivery.

Among the mothers, 21% were overweight and 4% were obese. Among the 37,709 offspring there were 6551 premature deaths from any cause and, among the deceased, 294 had had obese mothers at birth.

The researchers found that the risk of premature death was 35% higher in the adult offspring of obese mothers compared to those whose mothers had had normal weight. This was after adjusting the results for factors including the mother’s age at delivery, number of previous pregnancies, mother and father’s social class and infant sex, birth weight and gestation at delivery.

They also found a 42% increased risk (adjusted for the same factors) of a hospital admission for a cardiovascular event in the adult offspring of obese mothers compared with offspring of mothers with normal BMI.

The offspring of overweight mothers also had a higher risk of adverse events later in life.

It is thought that being overweight in pregnancy may cause permanent changes in appetite control and energy metabolism in the offspring, leading to a greater risk of heart problems later in life.

With rising rates of excess weight among pregnant women, the authors say their findings are “a major public health concern” and indicate that the offspring of obese mothers are a high risk group who should be assessed for cardiovascular risk, and actively encouraged to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“As one in five women in the UK is currently obese at antenatal booking, strategies to optimise weight before pregnancy are urgently required,” they conclude.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Factor-Litvak from the Department of Epidemiology in New York, says that this study leaves open two questions. Firstly, what is the role of the early post natal environment and secondly, what is the role of parental obesity? She asks what the implications of the study are, concluding that along with recommended weight gain for overweight and obese women, “interventions should begin before pregnancy”.

The editorial doesn't say what these 'interventions' should be!


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't

Noise pollution puts nature at risk

 "I just want a bit of peace and quiet!" Let's get away from all the hustle and bustle; the sound of endless traffic on the roads, of the trains on the railway, and the planes in the sky; the incessant drone; the noise. We live in a world of man-made noise; screeching, bellowing, on-and-on in an unmelodious cacophony.  This constant background noise has now become a significant health hazard.   With average background levels of 60 decibels, those who live in cities are often exposed to noise over 85 decibels, enough to cause significant hearing loss over time.  It causes stress, high blood pressure, headache and loss of sleep and poor health and well-being.   In nature, noise has content and significance.  From the roar of the lion, the laughing of a hyena,  communication is essential for life; as the warning of danger, for bonding as a group or a pair, finding a mate, or for establishing a position in a hierarchy - chattering works.  Staying in touch is vital to working

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba