Maternal obesity causes metabolic risk to the offspring

Maternal body fat and sugar levels directly impact chances of obesity and diabetes in their offspring. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Maternal body fat and sugar levels directly impact chances of obesity and diabetes in their offspring. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Obesity is one of the prevalent conditions in all types of population. One critical aspect of studying this disease is to understand the risk factors associated with obesity right from birth. During infancy, excessive and rapid growth are key symptoms of obesity which could further lead to complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases etc.

One such risk factor for obesity in infants was identified by a study led by Dr Lee’s group in Singapore. Their data analysis, particularly on Asian population, has shown that high blood glucose levels during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of obesity in the newborns. Dr Yung Seng Lee’s group has determined body fat and sugar levels of more than 900 pregnant women followed by the size and weight of their children up to three years of age.

“It is interesting to see how nature and nurture interact to affect a child’s outcomes,” says principal investigator Yung Seng Lee, from the A*STAR Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS).

As expected, obese mothers, in general, were seen to produce heavier infants as compared to non-obese mothers. However, when high levels of glucose were present in mother’s blood during pregnancy, her inherent metabolic status determined the growth of newborns.

Basically, they found that when normal i.e. non-obese mothers exhibited high blood glucose, the probability of her child becoming overweight increased by 36 percent. In contrast, in mothers who are already obese, every extra unit of glucose decreased the odds by 41 percent.

To explain this discrepancy, the researchers hypothesized that baby in the mother’s womb gets used to a high-fat and high-sugar environment and probably expects a similar milieu outside the womb.

Dr Lee’s group plans to follow these children until nine years of age. “We also plan to explore their genetic and epigenetic data to uncover the underlying pathogenic mechanisms of our results,” says Lee.

Also read: The global childhood obesity epidemic could be tackled by expectant mothers adjusting their diet

Data for this analysis has been provided by GUSTO (Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes); a SICS-led long-term study of pregnant mothers and their babies visiting KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and the National University Hospital in Singapore. Special mention and appreciation to all the pregnant mums for allowing their reports to be used for data analysis.

Original article can be accessed here