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Maternal Weight Gain, Blood Sugar and Childhood Obesity

A recent article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, volume 95 number 9 September 2020, just reported an important study on the effects of a pregnant woman’s weight and her blood sugar levels and the increased risks for childhood obesity. The study’s conclusion was that elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy, usually manifested as Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, and the mother’s excess weight/obesity are major risk factors for childhood obesity, irrespective of the genetic makeup. The backgrounders story is that “the rates of childhood obesity have been rapidly increasing during the past decades, with global rates growing from 0.7% in 1975 to 5.6% in 2016 in girls, and from 0.9% in 1975 to 7.8% in 2016 in boys. Childhood obesity not only results in elevated risks of various cardio-metabolic disorders among children, but also portends long-term health effects of increased risks of chronic diseases and mortality in adulthood”. But the study also gave some encouraging news, “Even women who are genetically predisposed to gain weight in pregnancy, which has been found to increase the risk of offspring obesity, may be able to modify this risk, thereby improving both their health and the health of their offspring”. Understanding this news and appreciating your concern for your child’s health and welfare, I would offer the following suggestions to overweight pregnant women that: 1) You lose some weight before getting pregnant, even a 10% loss from your present weight would be helpful; 2) you maintain normal blood sugar levels during your pregnancy and be tested for, and if need be, get treatment for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus; and 3) increase your level of physical activity, exercise, movement, walking, etc. These suggestions will help to reduce your child’s risk for developing obesity, and the numerous resulting chronic diseases caused by obesity, by preventing this from occurring with your behavior during pregnancy. I hope this is helpful, Peter Vash, M.D.,M.P.H.

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