The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at 4,821 children from 4 months old to 3 years, and found specific effects on children, depending on which parent is obese.
Children of obese mothers were more likely to have difficulty using small muscles, such as those in their fingers or hands, while paternal obesity was linked to an increased risk for failing at personal-social activities, such as feeding themselves, playing and undressing themselves. Those born to extremely obese parents on both sides were more likely to do poorly on problem-solving tests.
In the U.S., about one in five women is obese when they get pregnant; however, few studies have looked at the father’s weight, even though up to 30% of adults — both male and female — are considered obese.
“Our study is one of the few that also includes information about fathers, and our results suggest that dad’s weight also has significant influence on child development,” said lead researcher Dr. Edwina Yeung, an investigator at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Obesity is a condition in which a person has accumulated so much body fat that it may have a negative effect on their health. If your body weight is at least 20% higher than it should be, you are considered obese. A Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight; 30 or over is considered obese.
Yeung’s team used data from the ongoing Upstate KIDS study, which follows more than 6,000 children born in New York state. Its goal is to investigate the growth, motor and social development of children and its association with infertility treatments, obesity, maternal age and pregnancy complications.
The researchers looked at reports recorded by parents at 4, 8, 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36 months. Factors associated with obesity — such as lower income and education, smoking and alcohol intake — were quantified when analyzing the results.
It remains unclear exactly why parental obesity may increase the risk of developmental delays in children. However, the researchers noted that animal studies indicate that obesity during pregnancy can promote inflammation, which may affect the fetal brain.
“Obesity is correlated with a rise in inflammation and in hormones that regulate body fat and metabolism,” Yeung said. “One theory is that these hormones might influence the development of the baby’s brain.”
Other theories are that high blood sugar or a deficit in certain nutrients could influence fetal brain brain development.
While the study failed to make a causative link between parental obesity and developmental delays, its findings are just one more reason to keep an eye on your waistline. Research has shown that obesity greatly increases your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and other life-threatening health conditions. For anyone, male or female, pregnant or not, it makes sense to maintain a healthy weight.
Source: Science Daily