Obese mothers have babies
with more belly fat, study finds
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[June 25, 2014]
By Shereen Lehman
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -
Babies of obese mothers tend to be born with more fat,
especially around their middles, than babies with leaner
mothers, according to a new study.
“There are differences in body composition, already at birth between
obese women’s babies and normal weight women’s babies,” Emma Carlsen
told Reuters Health in an email.
She led the study at Hvidovre Hospital at the University of
Copenhagen in Denmark.
“It is important to notice that our study does not examine if there
are any long term implications of these findings, and, therefore,
follow-up studies are needed,” Carlsen said.
Among adults, having more belly fat is linked to a greater chance of
developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
“We don’t know if fat location in infants is important, although our
finding is interesting,” Carlsen said.
She and her colleagues recruited 231 obese and 80 normal-weight
mothers who had participated in a prior study on obesity in
They measured the women’s newborns and assessed their body
composition using so-called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DXA
The researchers found that infants born to obese mothers were on
average more than 6 ounces heavier at birth with 2.5 percent more
body fat than infants whose mothers were of a healthy weight.
What’s more, babies born to obese mothers had about half an ounce
more fat around their bellies, according to findings published in
Babies whose mothers gained more weight during pregnancy also tended
to be born with more fat, regardless of the mother’s pre-pregnancy
“This is a relatively small study, and it can be hard to extrapolate
findings - however it adds to a growing body of evidence that shows
differences in body composition in babies born to obese mothers,”
Sian Robinson told Reuters Health in an email.
Robinson, who has studied infant and childhood obesity at the
University of Southampton in the UK, wasn’t involved in the current
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“To date there have been relatively few studies of body composition
determined using DXA and we don't yet know what the differences
described in babies signify in later life,” she said.
Robinson’s own work has suggested that children’s body composition
may change more over the first few years of life than later in
childhood. But longer-term research is needed, she said.
Currently there is a lot of interest in whether excess weight gain
during pregnancy can be prevented, Robinson added.
But, Carlsen said, “Our study indicates that it might be more
effective to lose weight before becoming pregnant than to restrict
gestational weight gain, if you want to affect offspring body
According to the American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists, doctors should encourage obese women to lose weight
through diet, exercise and behavioral changes before becoming
Acta Paediatrica, online June 18, 2014.
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