Urgent action needed to prevent maternal obesity

Urgent action needed to prevent maternal obesity

The European Commission funded DORIAN (Developmental ORIgins of healthy and unhealthy AgeiNg: the role of maternal obesity) consortium today published a report revealing that children of obese mothers are more likely to suffer a stroke, develop heart disease or get type 2 diabetes.

It says more than half (53%) of all adults in the European Union are now either overweight or obese. Obesity, which presents even greater health risks than being overweight, currently affects one in six adults (17%) in the EU, an increase from one in eight a decade ago, with considerable variations between countries.

The DORIAN project aimed to generate a better understanding of the basic mechanisms of early life development and ageing, with the aim of improving health and quality of life during the entire life course.

It investigated and analysed the impacts of maternal obesity on the process of ageing, and its effects on children throughout their lives. A team from the University of Helsinki followed 13,000 subjects from birth in the 1930s-40s until the present age of 60-70 years. It showed that the likelihood to develop cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, or type 2 diabetes during adulthood, was greater in people born to mothers who were overweight during their late pregnancy.

Detailed analysis of 90 mothers and their children has revealed that the metabolic profile, body weight, and cardiac development in children are influenced by the association of pre-pregnancy overweight combined with weight gain during pregnancy, and by maternal weight and blood glucose control at the end of pregnancy. The weight gain occurring between consecutive pregnancies (commonly observed in women) also affects these factors.

And a team from the University of Edinburgh found that women with obesity eat a diet richer in saturated fats and poorer in micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) during pregnancy compared with lean women. In addition, using a preclinical model the investigators found that the placenta of mothers eating a high fat diet offered weakened protection to the foetus against the circulating stress hormone cortisol; and consequently, foetal growth is reduced and these offspring are more likely to suffer mood disorders in adulthood.

Dr Patricia Iozzo from the Institute of Clinical Physiology at Italy's National Research Council said: “Policy makers must draft guidelines for diet during pregnancy, and mental health support for pregnant women must be improved.

“The DORIAN project has underlined the importance of preventing obesity in pregnancy, preventing excess weight gain during pregnancy, and also maintaining healthy diet without too much fat, all of which can have short and long term effects on the health of the mother and her child.

“In the context of maternal-offspring health, attention should be devoted to the prevention of overweight and obesity among young girls, representing ‘tomorrow’s mothers’. Targeted strategies are also needed to ensure pregnant women do not add excess weight and protect their physical and mental health, and that of their children.”

By Mark Gould,

OnMedica, Tuesday 17 February 2015

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