Children born to obese mothers are more likely to die early as adults than those whose mothers were a normal weight, a study has found.
The offspring of obese mothers are one-third more likely to die before the age of 55, mainly as a result of heart disease, researchers found.
Children born to mothers who were overweight when they became pregnant were also 10 per cent more likely to die prematurely in later life than those born to mothers of a normal weight.
The study, carried out by the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen, examined the health records of more than 37,000 babies delivered between 1950 and 1976.
The research found, for children of mothers who were obese when they fell pregnant, hospital admissions in later life with heart problems including angina, heart attacks and strokes were almost a third greater than for children born to mothers with a normal body weight.
The study, published in the BMJ, follows previous research which found that offspring born to obese mothers were more likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
During the timeframe of the study one in 25 expectant mothers was obese. Today, it is estimated at around one in five pregnant women are obese.
Professor Rebecca Reynolds, of the Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Research at the University of Edinburgh, said: “As obesity among pregnant women is rising, along with levels of obesity in the general population, our findings are of major public health concern. This study highlights the need for more research to better understand and prevent the impact of obesity during pregnancy for offspring in later life and the biological processes at work.”
The births analysed took place in Aberdeen, and factors such as socio-economic status were taken into consideration.
Records were taken from the Aberdeen Maternity and Neonatal Databank, which were linked to the General Register of Deaths, Scotland and the Scottish Morbidity Record system.
Dr Sohinee Bhattacharya, of the University of Aberdeen, said: “This study highlights the importance of weight management in mothers and their offspring. We need to find out how to help young women and their children control their weight better so that chronic disease risk is not transmitted from generation to generation.”
Jacqui Clinton, Health Campaigns Director at Tommy’s, said: “This new study adds to a growing body of evidence that obesity during pregnancy can have a long term impact on children, affecting their adult weight, health and even their life expectancy. If we are to tackle obesity in the UK, we need to start at conception and help mums to limit the impact of their weight on their babies – research shows that eating a healthy diet and taking moderate exercise while pregnant can make a big difference. Looking after a baby’s health while in the womb may not only increase the chances of a healthy birth, but of a longer, healthier life.”
The study was funded by the Chief Scientist Office Scotland and Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, with additional support from Tommy’s and the British Heart Foundation.