Poor eating habits during pregnancy have been associated with an increased risk of obesity in children, a new study shows.
The study found that children whose mothers ate a low quality diet, high in inflammation-associated foods, while pregnant had a higher risk of unhealthy body fat levels than those whose mothers ate a high quality diet, low in inflammation-associated foods.
Researchers from University College Dublin collected and analysed data from 16,295 mother-child pairs across seven European birth studies and found late-childhood obesity was associated with diets high in inflammation-associated foods.
These include foods high in saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and red and processed meat.
The findings suggest that promoting an overall healthy diet, high in fruit and vegetables and low in refined carbohydrates and red and processed meats throughout pregnancy may help prevent childhood obesity.
Dr Ling-Wei Chen, of the UCD School of Public Health Physiotherapy and Sports Science, said: “Mounting evidence suggests that maternal diet influences pregnancy and birth outcomes and points to the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from conception to two-years-old, as a critical period for preventing childhood obesity.
“Our research indicates that children born to mothers who eat a low-quality diet, high in inflammation-associated foods, during pregnancy may be more likely to have obesity or excess body fat in late childhood than those born to mothers who eat a high-quality diet low in inflammation-associated foods,” she added.
To examine the effects of maternal diet on the likelihood of childhood obesity and excess body fat, the researchers analysed the data collected from studies carried out in Ireland, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Poland.
The researchers found that association between a lower quality maternal diet, high in inflammation-associated foods, and lower levels of fat-free body mass in late-childhood.
This association was found to be stronger in boys than in girls.