London: A foetus that is fed with excess nutrition is likely to become an overweight adolescent, new research has found, raising the importance of increasing maternal health before and during pregnancy to improve the health of the child.
The findings of the study showed that higher levels of blood markers in the umbilical cord of the pregnant mother makes the baby fattier, as well as puts the baby in danger of becoming obese in late childhood and adolescence.
Higher levels of Leptin and Adiponectin — proteins involved in the regulation of fat and umbilical cord blood markers — at birth led to greater fat in the child both at the age of 9 and 17.
“Foetal overnutrition may facilitate foetal growth and fat accretion, as determined by cord leptin and birthweight, and may program greater adiposity in the child that extends into childhood and adolescence,” said lead author Joy Simpson, clinical research fellow at University of Glasgow, in Britain.
Also, being over weight at birth also corresponded to the increase of fat mass in children at ages 9 and 17.
Birthweight was positively associated with fat mass, waist circumference and body mass index at age 9 and 17,” Simpson added.
The results also showed that leptin was positively associated with fat mass, waist circumference and body mass index at age 9 and 17, but that the effect was diminished when they adjusted for pregnancy characteristics.
Adiponectin was not associated with any measures at age 9, but at age 17, the cord-blood protein was positively associated with fat mass and waist circumference.
Moreover, at age 17, the effect size after adjusting for maternal and pregnancy characteristics was strengthened.
To examine the association of cord-blood leptin, adiponectin and birth weight with childhood and adolescent fat, the team measured blood taken from the umbilical cord at birth in 5,011 mothers and children.
“This work highlights the importance of optimising maternal health before and during pregnancy to improve offspring health and limit the translation of greater adiposity onto future generations,” Simpson suggested.
The results were presented at ENDO 2016, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Boston, US.