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High-sugar diet during pregnancy can lead to childhood obesity

Thursday 30th May 2019
Children of women with high levels of glucose in their blood during pregnancy have an increased risk of growing up with childhood obesity.
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Every pregnant person needs to be careful about what they eat, avoiding everything from alcohol to certain types of fish. However, a new study has suggested that eating too much sugar could also be a risk, with children born to mothers with high levels of glucose in their blood being at a higher risk of developing childhood obesity.

This research comes from the University of Tennessee, where scientists analysed data from over 40,000 pregnant women who gave birth between 1995 and 2004. The data from the children was also considered, up until they reached the age of five or seven in some cases.

Blood glucose screening tests, undertaken between weeks 24 and 28 of each pregnancy, are done as standard in the US. If elevated levels of glucose are found, an additional test for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is carried out. However, the researchers found that even if the levels aren’t high enough for GDM, elevated glucose during pregnancy leads to a 13 per cent higher risk of the child becoming obese between the ages of five and seven.

The study revealed that GDM is more of a risk, as developing this increases the risk of childhood obesity by 52 per cent. However, this indicates that pregnant women need to be increasingly careful about what they eat, as high-sugar diets can lead to health problems in their children.

Interestingly, the research also found that having high blood glucose levels was not a risk of childhood obesity if the mother had a body mass index (BMI) within the normal range. This information could be used to help pregnant women achieve a healthier lifestyle for both them and their children.

Samantha Ehrlich, professor of public health at the University of Tennessee, said: “This information is important because it suggests that we may be able to prevent childhood obesity in two ways: by helping mothers to achieve a normal BMI before they become pregnant, and by reducing hyperglycemia during the pregnancy.”

Written by Martin Lambert

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