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Pregnancy health programme helps prevent childhood obesity

A pregnancy health programme for obese mothers has seen the body fat of their babies at 6 months, indicating with potential benefits for their children’s lifelong health and risk of obesity.

New research involving Prof Keith Godfrey from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, published in the international journal of obesity, has shown that a health programme for obese pregnant women could help tackle the growing issue of childhood obesity.

Breaking the cycle

Mothers who are obese during their pregnancy are more likely to have children who are obese, who in turn are more likely to grow up to be obese in adulthood and go on to have obese children themselves.

This study aimed to see if a health programme could help obese mothers to improve their diet and do more exercise during pregnancy and after giving birth, and so reduce their child’s risk of obesity.

Starting as you mean to go on

Known as the UK Pregnancies Better Eating and Activity Trial (UPBEAT), it involved over 1500 obese pregnant women from eight different hospitals across the UK, led by Professor Lucilla Poston at the NIHR Biomedical Research at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London.

The women were split into two groups – one that just received standard antenatal care and a second that also took part in the health programme. They completed a questionnaire about their lifestyle and at six months old their baby’s body fat was assessed.

Women who took part in the health programme had a better diet, less weight gain during pregnancy and a slight increase in physical activity. And at six months old, their babies had a lower body fat content.

“This study underlines the potential benefit of simple, effective interventions like this,” comments Prof Godfrey. “If rolled out on a larger scale, health programmes during pregnancy like this could make a significant contribution to preventing childhood obesity across generations.”

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