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Overweight mums are encouraged to think again about losing weight before getting pregnant as it could really benefit their child.
Due to the increase in obesity throughout the world and the propensity that children of overweight mothers have towards being obese themselves, scientists are predicting that the current epidemic levels of obesity could well increase and continue for generations to come. However, researchers in San Diego have discovered a possible way to break this cycle - it appears that overweight mothers who lose weight before their pregnancy can pass on some health benefits to their children.
Pregnancy DietThe joint study conducted by the UT Health Centre in San Antonio, the National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City and the Centre for Pregnancy and Newborn Research at the Health Science Centre was conducted using rats. The researchers caused the female rats to become overweight by feeding them a high fat diet before mating, and then left them on this diet through their pregnancy and during the feeding period after they gave birth. A second group of female rats was switched to a regular diet one month before they were mated.
The male offspring were studied and it was discovered that the children of the overweight mothers experienced an increased resistance to insulin and also had elevated levels of triglycerides, insulin and leptin. Serious health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and other conditions arising from being overweight may not arise until later in life but these offspring were considered to be at an elevated risk of all of these due to the diet they received in the womb and during weaning. The offspring whose mothers had been switched back to the regular diet before their pregnancy were found to have normal levels of all of these, demonstrating that the symptoms are reversible but they could not be completely eliminated.
One particularly interesting aspect of the study was the increase in leptin in the obese parents' offspring. Leptin is a hormone which tells the brain to decrease appetite; this can potentially mean that a parent who is overweight during pregnancy can give birth to a child with a brain developed to resist the signals that tell them they're getting fat and they just go on eating.
The results of this experiment are certainly encouraging when it comes to breaking the cycle of obesity and potentially minimising the health issues caused by being overweight in the future. If you are planning to become pregnant and are overweight, it is worth visiting a dietician in order to lose weight and give your child a better start in life.