Pregnancy Study Shows Obesity Risk From Mother’s Diet

pregnancy, obesity, mother, health, diet

According to a recent study into pregnancy, mothers who have a bad diet put their children at risk of obesity. The researchers put the link to changes in the metabolism while in the womb. Researchers from the University of Cologne and Yale School of Medicine worked together on a study involving mice. The mothers who had a high-fat diet gave birth to pups with abnormal neural networks. The hypothalamus was also altered, which is an area linked to the metabolism. The affected metabolism led to disorders, which could lead to obesity in later life.

Along with becoming obese, the pups would remain that way throughout their lives. They also suffered from problems with the mechanism for glucose control, making type 2 diabetes more likely in the pups.

There will be differences between how humans and mice are affected, due to the ways the neural networks develop. The study explained that the neural networks in mice are under-developed when they are born. In humans, the networks are completed by the time of birth, usually in the third trimester. With this in mind, researchers agreed that it was very important for mothers to think about the food and drinks they have during the last month of pregnancy. During the study, the mother mice were given the high-fat diet while breastfeeding the pups.

Yale School of Medicine co-lead author Tama Horvath explained that there was some good news. While the pregnancy study shows there is an obesity risk from the mother’s diet, that risk can also be reversed. Mothers can control the risk by changing the food that they eat and limit the fat content.

There have been numerous studies on pregnancy and diet. One study from Jerusalem linked obese mothers to later health complications in children. The study made it clear that more research was required to understand more about the cycle of obesity between generations.

A study published in 2012 stated a junk food diet during pregnancy was just as bad as smoking. Researchers stated that eating junk food would limit the size of a baby as well as its brain growth while in the womb due to the chemicals. This is similar to smoking during pregnancy.

One of the most recent ones was about binge drinking and the affect on the health of the baby. Guardian Liberty Voice shared the details that one binge drinking session during pregnancy can cause behavioral problems later in a child’s life. The study assessed how children behaved at the age of seven and used questionnaires filled out by the mothers to link their alcohol habits to the behavior.

Horvath stated that more research is required to understand the link between poor diet and pregnancy. This is in both animals and humans.

University of Southampton staff member Dr. Graham Burdge explained that research in nutrition during the early years has been happening for 20 years, so it is something already well established. He did, however, explain that this is the first pregnancy study to show the changes in neurological circuits, which lead to the obesity risk from the mother’s diet.

By Alexandria Ingham


Yale School of Medicine

American Heart Association

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6 Responses to "Pregnancy Study Shows Obesity Risk From Mother’s Diet"

  1. Amanda   January 26, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    My mother was (and still is) morbidly obese yet her children (including me) were skinny, tall kids. I still have no weight issues and I have given birth to 3 large children and I am almost 40.

    My oldest child was almost 9 lbs when he was born, he is now 18 and 6’2″ and 130 lbs (extremely skinny). He eats candy but his all time favorite food is a pomegranate (he likes almost all fruit and will eat those before candy).

    My daughters are also thin. Meanwhile, while pregnant, I ate junk food like crazy, snickers once daily.

    The only difference is I somehow do not over eat calories while my obese mother consistently overeats. She also has mental health issues. I believe the author should look at mental health issues instead of diet when trying to find out why people are obese/over weight.

    • Alexandria Ingham   January 27, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Amanda,

      I’d just like to point out that I am reporting on the study. I’m not looking into the diet to figure out why people are obese. Personally, I think a lot of it is diet but I know mental issues are also a problem. I’ve recently spent a year and three months losing weight to get to my goal but it’s taken six years of yo-yo dieting because mentally I kept giving up along the way.

  2. Barb Davis   January 26, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Interesting study. I am grateful my three children did not read this report! My diet was atrocious (almost entirely animal products, refined fats and sugars–and one meal a day, all day long) during each of their pregnancies. All three are in their 40s and have always been slim and trim, even my two daughters after multiple pregnancies, without having to “watch their weight.” However, I will note that the whole family changed to a whole-foods vegan dietary when the children were three and under. Genetics and parental practices may load the gun, but personal lifestyle still pulls the trigger in these lifestyle diseases!

    • Alexandria Ingham   January 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      You’re right, Bard! It is the lifestyle that pulls the trigger. My diet was bad during the final trimester with my daughter, but we’ve since changed to a healthier diet. My daughter still gets the odd biscuit and chocolate, but we focus on wholesome and filling foods at meal times. It helps that I was on a diet from her being six weeks and am now maintaining a healthy weight.

  3. Bob Owen   January 26, 2014 at 9:44 am

    This author is not qualified to report on this topic. Did the study’s high-fat diet mean a diet high in fat? Or did it mean a fat-causing-diet made the mother’s fat? Most snack foods have little fat in them. No sugary drinks have fat in them. So they’re OK?

    Fat in the diet does not trigger the insulin response,Insulin takes sugar from the bloodstream and turns it directly to fat, Dietary fat takes about as many calories to digest as it has in it. In fact, fat helps mitigate the insulin response e.g. makes it less necessary.

    This article is unclear to anyone who knows about insulin response and fat. It’s misleading to everyone who doesn’t. It misleads whoever thinks fat in their diet cause their obesity. Fix it!

    • Alexandria Ingham   January 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      Hi Bob,

      I’m reporting on the study and taking the information from that. It is one of the sources, so feel free to check in more detail from there. The study involved a high-fat diet for the mothers, which led to the mice pups gaining weight. It was due to problems during the development in the brain; nothing to do with fat triggering an insulin response.


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