Offspring of mothers with a higher pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) have been found to not only be fatter, but to have more fat deposits in the liver. The researchers from Imperial College London published their findings in September’s issue of the journalPediatric Research.
The research team used magnetic resonance scanning to assess 105 babies born at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The babies were scanned while they were asleep to measure the amount of fat in their liver cells, the total amount of fat in their bodies and its distribution. They found that liver cell fat in the babies and total fat, particularly around the abdomen, increased across the entire range of BMI in their mothers.
Children of overweight and obese mothers are already known to have a higher risk of being overweight and obese themselves, and of experiencing associated metabolic health problems such as type-2 diabetes. The authors of this new study suggest that the changes they found in babies’ bodies might be signs of the first biological changes which, combined with an unhealthy lifestyle, might put babies of overweight mothers on a path to ill health in later life.
Professor Neena Modi, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London and a Consultant Neonatologist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, who led the study, said: “This study demonstrates that a woman’s BMI, even in the normal range, affects the amount of fat in her baby at birth. Fatter women have fatter babies and there is more fat in the babies livers. If these effects persist through childhood and beyond, they could put the child at risk of lifelong metabolic health problems.
“There is growing evidence that a baby’s development before birth has a major impact on their health in later life. This means that the prevention of obesity needs to begin in the womb.