TUESDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Here's another reason for
young women to get their bad eating habits under control: Kids born
to obese mothers are likely to die earlier than those born to
normal-weight mothers, a new Scottish study suggests.
In the United States and Europe, about two-thirds of women of
reproductive age are overweight and more than one-third are obese,
according to the study. Previous research has suggested that
obesity during pregnancy may boost the risk of high blood pressure
and high blood sugar, which are linked to cardiovascular disease,
in their offspring. The findings of the new study are even more
"We need to think about targeting children of obese mothers for lifestyle interventions to maintain a healthy weight," said study author Rebecca Reynolds, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
But the findings aren't conclusive, and it could be that the
mothers' weight has nothing to do with the life spans of their
children. It's possible, for example, that families with poor diets
produce heavier moms and sicker kids.
Also, even if the link is confirmed, it's not clear if these
offspring can alter their extra risk of dying earlier, the
Earlier this year, a committee of the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists said all overweight or obese women
should be offered nutrition counseling and be encouraged to follow
an exercise program.
But the results of the new study suggest that weight-loss
interventions should begin before pregnancy, according to Pam
Factor-Litvak, author of an accompanying journal editorial.
For the study, published online Aug. 13 in the journal
BMJ, the researchers tracked almost 38,000 people born in
Scotland from 1950 onward who were aged 34 to 61 in 2011. They
looked for data on the mothers body-mass index (BMI) -- a
measurement of body fat based on height and weight -- and any
deaths or heart disease among their children through that year.
Overall, more than 6,500 deaths from any cause were reported,
and the leading causes of death were cardiovascular disease and
Those whose mothers were obese at birth -- meaning they had a
BMI of 30 or higher -- were 35 percent more likely to have died by
2011 than those whose mothers were a normal weight.
These young and middle-aged adults were also about 29 percent
more likely to have been admitted to a hospital because of a heart
problem; overall, 8 percent were admitted for that reason.
The researchers came up with these numbers after adjusting their
statistics to account for factors such as income level, gender, or
maternal age at birth.
Children of mothers who were overweight -- a BMI of 25 to 29 --
were 11 percent more likely to die than those of mothers of normal
The mechanisms behind this association aren't clear, and the
researchers were lacking one crucial piece of information: whether
the kids of obese pregnant moms became obese themselves. However,
Reynolds said it's possible that genes play a role. Or, it's
possible that the families of obese pregnant moms had poor eating
habits that affected their children's health later on.
Shinga Feresu, an associate professor at Indiana University
School of Public Health, said it's also possible that health
conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and high blood pressure
could have thrown off the results. Overweight and obese children
and teens are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, putting them
at a higher risk of early heart disease, Feresu said.
Nonetheless, it's clear that "women who are obese need to reduce
their weight to a healthy level before they become pregnant,"
Feresu said. "They will have a much healthier baby, with reduced
risk of long-term disease and premature death."
Previous research has highlighted other obesity-related
pregnancy problems. A study published in June in the
Journal of the American Medical Associationfound that
overweight or obese women who are pregnant are more likely to give
birth prematurely, and the risk of preterm delivery increases with
their amount of excess weight.
For more about
obesity, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.