Your weight pre-pregnancy could affect your child’s risk of obesity

08 September 2016 | Healthy living, Science and research

Lucy Eccles, International Communications OfficerNew research has found that if you’re a woman, your weight pre-pregnancy can affect your child’s risk of being obese in later life. This interesting study was funded by us and published in the scientific journal Obesity. It offers a very useful insight into how we can help our children be as healthy as possible.

The study found that a third of women (33%) were overweight or obese before they became pregnant and that this was a significant risk factor for their children being overweight or obese in later life. This effect was shown to be even more significant in older mothers.

Being a healthy weight at every stage of life is important. For example, we know that an overweight or obese child is more likely to be so as an adult, putting them at risk of developing a number of conditions including cancer. Our own evidence shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing 11 common cancers including breast, prostate and bowel. In fact, about 25,000 cancer cases could be prevented every year in the UK if everyone was a healthy weight.

Adiposity rebound – not as complicated as it sounds

In the study, the risk of the child becoming obese in later life was measured by the age they reached adiposity rebound. To non-scientists this may sound a bit complicated but what it basically means is - the age at which children lose their ‘baby fat’ before their fat levels increase again as they grow into adulthood. The earlier a child goes through adiposity rebound, the greater their risk of being overweight or obese in later life.

What the scientist said

I caught up with Prof Ricardo Uauy, one of the scientists who worked on this study at University of Santiago in Chile, and he said, “These results show that it’s particularly important that women make sure they are at a healthy weight before they become pregnant as their weight before pregnancy matters to the woman and her future child. It emphasises how vital it is to have programmes in place which can successfully promote and help women be a healthy pre-pregnancy weight.”

Dr Panagiota Mitrou, our Director of Research Funding, agreed with Prof Uauy saying, “Being a healthy weight is important at every stage of life – and this large study of mothers and their children highlights just how crucial that is. Even before pregnancy, a mother’s weight can affect that of her child’s. In fact, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the second best thing people can do to help prevent cancer.”

What can I do to help?

So we know that keeping a healthy weight is important, even more so if you’re thinking of having a baby. However, working out if you are a healthy weight or not can sometimes be confusing. That's why we have a handy BMI calculator to make this really simple. We also have helpful advice and recipes to help you maintain a healthy weight and create lifelong healthy habits.

If you are worried about your weight, you should speak to your doctor.

Lucy Eccles | 08 September 2016