A new study suggests that obesity-related diseases could be passed down from one generation to the next. The analysis, published in the journal BMJ, found that children born to overweight or obese mothers were more likely to die young of cardiovascular disease than their peers who had mothers of a medically healthy weight.
The study looked at over 30,000 Scottish women who gave birth between 1950 and 1976 and were weighed and measured in early pregnancy. When the researchers searched for death certificates among their nearly 38,000 children, now aged 34 to 61, they found that those whose mothers had been obese had a 35 percent higher chance of dying of cardiovascular disease than the children of average-weight mothers. Additional health records showed that these children also had a 40 percent higher risk of being treated in a hospital for heart problems.
“With the rising rates of excess weight among pregnant women, our findings of an association between maternal overweight and obesity and premature death in the adult offspring is a major public health concern,” wrote Dr. Rebecca Reynolds in the study. “We need to think about targeting children of obese mothers for lifestyle interventions to maintain a healthy weight.”
The reasons behind this association were unclear, and the researchers were unable to determine whether the children of obese mothers were also obese. However, Reynolds speculated that either genes play a role, or the offspring of overweight mothers developed poor eating habits during childhood.
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