WASHINGTON — In this video exclusive, Emily Oken, MD, MPH, professor in the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, and in the department of nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, discusses new developments in early life predictors of risks for obesity and other chronic diseases.
Although maternal prepregnancy obesity and gestational weight gain have been recognized as influencers for health of offspring throughout life, researchers are now investigating whether timing of weight gain during pregnancy is important. Oken and colleagues have found that weight gain in early pregnancy likely increases health risks in offspring more than third-trimester weight gain does.
“It may be that we need to move the timepoint of intervention earlier in pregnancy to get the maximal benefit for offspring,” Oken said.
Oken and colleagues are also investigating the role of hormones during pregnancy, in particular, leptin, which appears to be protective against overweight in offspring.
“There’s a lot that we know, but a lot that we actually don’t know, about things like the timing of exposure, whether maternal or child factors are most important, and how these factors all interact to influence offspring health,” Oken said.