According to a recent study, childhood obesity is becoming a global health crisis. However, it could be prevented by ensuring that expectant mothers receive the proper nutrition before and during pregnancy.
Researchers behind the study, published in BMC Medicine, found that mothers who took prenatal supplements with probiotics, myoinositol, and vitamins B2, B6, B12, and D gave birth to children who were less likely to gain weight quickly and develop obesity by the age of two.
„Preventing obesity is one of the most important things we can do, as treating obesity is much more difficult. These findings suggest that the time before and during pregnancy could offer a special opportunity – a time when supporting better maternal nutrition could have lasting benefits for their child,“ said the study’s lead researcher, Professor Keith Godfrey of the University of Southampton and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Center.
The study involved 500 participants who were randomly assigned to two groups, with one group receiving the enriched prenatal supplement while the others took a standard pregnancy supplement.
Researchers interviewed all participants and checked the weight of their children at the age of 2. They found that children of mothers in the enriched prenatal supplement group were only half as likely to suffer from obesity as those who received the standard supplement (9% versus 18%). Additionally, the likelihood of rapid weight gain in these children was nearly 25% lower.
„Our data suggest that prenatal supplementation for mothers could have benefits that extend far beyond pregnancy and for the affected women. It can impact their baby into childhood and possibly beyond,“ said the study’s lead researcher, Wayne Cutfield of the Liggins Institute in Auckland.
The researchers plan to continue the study with children aged 6 to 8 years old.
The impact of a mother’s nutrition on her child’s health may not always be immediately apparent, but it will become evident as the child grows, explained Shiao Yng Chan of the National University of Singapore, a co-author of the study.
„As the child grows, the effects of what happened in the baby’s body in the womb will become visible. These early events, sometimes called fetal programming, can influence how the child responds to an unhealthy lifestyle, such as consuming high-fat foods and lack of exercise, leading to overweight in some children,“ the co-author explained.