Improving diet before and during pregnancy can reduce childhood obesity – study

The research was carried out at the University of Southampton.

Research by the University of Southampton suggests improving diet during pregnancy can reduce the risk of childhood obesity (Yui Mok/PA).
Research by the University of Southampton suggests improving diet during pregnancy can reduce the risk of childhood obesity (Yui Mok/PA).

Helping women to eat healthily before and during pregnancy would reduce the risk of obesity for their children, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Southampton found children aged eight or nine were more likely to be obese if their mother had a poor diet during pregnancy and before.

The research, published in the International Journal of Obesity, analysed data on the diets of 2,963 mother-child pairs who were part of the UK Southampton Women’s Survey – a long-running study that tracks the health of mothers and their children.

Mothers who were younger, had attained fewer academic qualifications, smoked and had a higher body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy were more likely to be ranked in a worse diet quality group with their child.

When the children were eight or nine, the researchers assessed the amount of fat tissue in their bodies using a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan.

They also calculated the child’s BMI adjusting this to account for their age and sex.

The results showed that if a mother-child pair was in a lower diet quality group, this was associated with the child having a higher DXA percentage body fat and BMI at age eight or nine.

Dr Sarah Crozier, associate professor of statistical epidemiology, said: “Childhood obesity is a significant and growing issue in the UK, causing long-lasting health problems that extend well into adulthood.

“This research shows the importance of intervening at the earliest possible stage in a child’s life, in pregnancy or even before conception, to enable us to tackle it.”

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