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Maternal healthy lifestyle may lower obesity risk in offspring

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July 10, 2018

Qi Sun
Qi Sun

Women who maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, characterized by a healthy BMI, regular exercise, not smoking and moderate consumption of alcohol, are more likely to have offspring without obesity in adolescence vs. mothers who do not adhere to a healthy lifestyle, according to an analysis of mother-child pairs published in The BMJ.

“Living a healthy lifestyle is not only beneficial to women for achieving optimal health, but it also can help their children to maintain a healthy body weight during childhood,” Qi Sun, MD, PhD, associate professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Channing Division of Network Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Endocrine Today. “Maternal or parental healthy lifestyle can be one of the effective strategies for the prevention of childhood obesity.”

In a prospective study, Sun and colleagues analyzed data from 24,289 children aged 9 to 14 years who were free of obesity at baseline participating in the Growing Up Today Study, born to 16,945 mothers participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Women completed detailed questionnaires every 2 years about lifestyle characteristics and medical history, and reported in a 2009 questionnaire their gestational age, birth weight, type of delivery and pregnancy complications. Growing Up Today Study participants reported their height, weight, diet, physical activity and eating behaviors in follow-up questionnaires. To evaluate the association between maternal lifestyle factors and offspring obesity, researchers calculated RRs using log-binomial regression models with generalized estimating equations.

Researchers found that 1,282 (5.3%) of offspring developed obesity during a median 5 years of follow-up.

Among mothers who maintained a BMI between 18.5 kg/m² and 24.9 kg/m², risk of incident obesity was lower among offspring in adolescence (RR = 0.44; 95% CI, 0.39-0.5). Additionally, risk of incident obesity was lower in children with mothers who engaged in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity (RR = 0.79; 95% CI, 0.69-0.91), did not smoke (RR = 0.69; 95% CI, 0.56-0.86) and consumed alcohol in moderation (defined as 1 g to 14.9 g per day; RR = 0.88; 95% CI, 0.79-0.99) vs. mothers who were sedentary, smoked or consumed more than 14.9 g alcohol per day, according to researchers.

The researchers found that a high-quality diet, as defined by the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 diet score, was not independently associated with risk for obesity in offspring, according to researchers.

The researchers noted that when mothers followed all healthy lifestyle factors, offspring had a 75% lower risk for obesity vs. the offspring of mothers who did not adhere to any risk factors (RR = 0.25; 95% CI, 0.14-0.47), with the association persisting in subgroups of children with pregnancy complications and other risk factors.

“Importantly, adherence to a healthy lifestyle in both mothers and their children could result in an ever further reduction in the risk of offspring obesity,” the researchers wrote.

Sun said more research is needed to better understand the role of a father’s lifestyle in the observed associations. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.


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