Mothers' Obesity Passed On to Babies

FEBRUARY 01, 2006
Susan Farley

Recent data analysis from Ohio State University found that babies born to obese mothers were 3 times as likely to become overweight themselves, compared with children born to mothers of normal weight. Researchers have yet to determine whether there is a biological reason for this statistic, or whether it is a result of environmental factors after the baby is born; however, their analysis concluded that both reasons seem to contribute to excess weight in early childhood. Their analysis, which used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth's Child- Mother file, included more than 3000 children who were weighed at ages 3, 5, and 7. Children were considered overweight if their body mass index fell at or above the 95th percentile on growth charts. Researchers determined that race, ethnicity, maternal smoking, and maternal prepregnancy weight were all factors in childhood weight gain, with the most influential factors being maternal weight and smoking. If the mother was overweight or obese, the child was 2 or 3 times as likely to be overweight by age 7 than were children born to mothers of a normal weight. Children whose mothers smoked had their risk of being overweight by age 7 increased by 74%, compared with those whose mothers did not smoke. They also found that black and Hispanic children were more likely than white children to be overweight.

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.