Are Mothers Key to Preventing Obesity?

Research presented this week at the Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association adds to the growing understanding that mothers may be key to preventing obesity in children. As this knowledge becomes increasingly solid, a major re-thinking of efforts to prevent childhood obesity will be inevitable.

Kristen Boyle and colleagues from the University of Colorado found evidence that children of  mothers with obesity may be born with cells that are already programmed to accumulate extra fat and develop metabolic disease. Boyle examined umbilical cord stem cells from babies whose mothers had obesity and mothers who had no excess weight. They found 30% higher fat content in both fat and muscle cells grown from stem cells from babies of mothers with obesity.

In a similar vein, Patrick Catalano and Sylvie Hauguel deMouzon recently published a review of interventions for maternal obesity to improve the health of mothers and infants. They concluded that once pregnancy begins it may already be too late to have a meaningful effect:

On the basis of our research, we conclude that interventions need to be initiated prior to

The concept that lifestyle intervention before pregnancy is important in improving placental function and development is gaining traction as a viable paradigm to improve perinatal metabolic outcomes.

It just might be that all the exhortations to parents and schools about childhood obesity may be too little and too late. And admonishing people with obesity that they should go away and lose some weight doesn’t do much, either.

Actually providing medical obesity care for adults living with obesity may be essential for preventing obesity in the next generation.

Click here for the study by Boyle et al, here for the review by Catalano and deMouzon, and here for more from MedPage Today.

Morning, painting by Boris Kustodiev from WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


2 Responses to “Are Mothers Key to Preventing Obesity?”

  1. June 13, 2015 at 12:45 am, Mary-Jo said:

    Access to best health care for women between the ages of 9-49 (most relevant to childbearing) , especially of lower SES, imo, is key to prevention of obesity occurrence and management and has now become more necessary than ever. I realize this is a ‘loaded’ statement , but, the cost of expanding services for great assessment, treatment, and monitoring of women’s health and weight/fitness may be much less than the ever-skyrocketing costs of the obesity epidemic. Thanks for sharing this important research, Ted. It’s a very important issue that must be addressed if we really want to make a difference to incidence of obesity.

    • June 13, 2015 at 8:52 am, Ted said:

      Well said, Mary-Jo. Thanks!