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Are Oversized Moms to Blame for Pudgy Kids?

March 27, 2008 | 31,227 views

child, infant, toddler, eatingThere is a strong link between overweight mothers and overweight children, but British researchers concluded that babies born to overweight women probably are not “programmed” to be fat as a result.

The researchers examined the developmental overnutrition hypothesis, which is the idea that a woman who is overweight during pregnancy has higher blood levels of sugar and fatty acids that may predispose the developing child to poor appetite control and slower metabolism.

While this theory was deemed unlikely, the study of over 4,000 women and their children did show that mothers are in some way involved in their children’s obesity.

The researchers found that in cases where children became overweight by age 9 or 11, the mother was more likely to be overweight than the father.

Meanwhile, it’s known that people with certain variants of the "fat mass and obesity associated" gene, or FTO gene, are more likely to become overweight. The study found that inheriting this gene from the mother rather than the father appeared to have a stronger link to becoming overweight, though they aren’t sure why.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Though this study did not come out with any useful conclusions as far as I can see, the numbers of obese Americans, and also women who are obese during pregnancy, are on the rise, so it is a relevant topic to consider what impact this could be having on children.

While this study did not find a link between obesity during pregnancy and an increased risk of obesity in the child, it’s worth pointing out that other studies have. For instance, a study in Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that:

“Maternal obesity also increases the risk of delivering a large for gestational age or macrosomic neonate, who is in turn at an increased risk of subsequent childhood obesity.”

There are also other well-established risks to children born to obese moms, including:
  • Twice the risk of congenital heart defects and multiple birth defects.
  • Three times the chance of being born with omphalocele, a defect in which intestines or other abdominal organs protrude through the navel.
  • A greater risk of neural tube (spinal cord and/or brain) defects, including spina bifida.
  • A greater risk of breast, blood and digestive tract cancers.
Women who are obese also face some serious risks during pregnancy. Consider that:
  • One in three UK women who die during pregnancy or childbirth are grossly overweight, and the death is usually associated with obesity.
  • Labor progresses more slowly for overweight and obese women, which increases the risk of cesarean sections. These women also have a greater risk of suffering from life-threatening complications from the surgery. 
  • Women who gain over 35 pounds during pregnancy are more likely to be overweight 15 years later, which puts them at an increased risk for health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression.
But while the risks of obesity, for pregnant women and anyone else, are fairly clear-cut, the cause of childhood obesity is not so simplistic.

Placing Blame is NOT the Answer
It is clearly not right, nor productive, to simply point the finger at all the moms out there and blame them for childhood obesity. This is a multi-faceted problem, one that BOTH parents play a large part in. But unless you are knowingly feeding your children Twinkies and Oreos all day long, it is safe to assume that most parents want the best for their children, and that includes helping them stay at a healthy weight.

However, you cannot deny the “monkey see, monkey do” mentality that comes with childhood. And in your child’s eyes, you are the top monkey.

This means that you simply must model healthy lifestyle behaviors to your children if you expect them to follow them also.

Tips for Raising Healthy Weight Children

If you have children who are overweight or obese, I highly suggest you pick up a copy of my book Generation XL, as it is packed with all the tools you need to transform the health of your children. In the meantime, I would recommend getting started on these crucial lifestyle changes right now:

1. Make exercise a part of your family’s daily schedule. Take brisk walks as a family, play tag in the backyard, sign up for a martial arts class and simply set aside time each day to get your bodies moving!

2. Get rid of the junk food. If it’s still in your pantry, you’ll be tempted to eat it, and so will your kids. So collect all the soda, candy, cookies, and chips, and give them to a neighbor you don’t like.

3. Set family mealtimes. Studies show that families who eat together have better overall nutrition, and kids with family mealtimes are less likely to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and more likely to do well in school, delay having sex, and eat their vegetables, so the benefits of this one are quite profound.

4. Prepare meals for your family. Staying fit is next to impossible if your diet is mostly fast food or processed foods, so someone in your home will need to devote time to preparing healthy, fresh foods for your family.

5. Turn off the TV, computer and video games. Not only is watching TV associated with obesity, but limiting these things will also give your family time to do something active instead.

6. Reward your children with kind words, not food. Many of us were given candy or sweets as rewards from our parents, and you may be tempted to follow that tradition. However, this will only start your children on a long road of addiction to sugar.

7. Overcome your emotional addictions to sugar and junk food. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a simple tool to help you overcome food cravings and addictions, and you can teach it to your kids as well.

8. Get to and Maintain a Healthy Weight Yourself. Children model your behavior more than anything else.

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