Maternal obesity can cause metabolic changes in womb

Pregnancy: Study links maternal BMI to insulin resistance levels.

Obesity in pregnancy can cause biological changes to children in the womb, a US study suggests.

Researchers found that babies born to obese mothers became insulin resistant before birth. The team from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio believes it is the first to report such a finding.

The researchers said their data suggest that maternal obesity creates a significant risk for the next generation, with metabolic compromise apparent at birth.

The researchers studied 53 lean and 68 obese women at elective caesarean delivery. They obtained measures of insulin resistance from maternal and umbilical cord blood.

The babies' body fat levels were also assessed within 24 hours of delivery

Babies born to obese mothers had 13 per cent more body fat and 51 per cent more insulin resistance.

There was also a strong correlation between maternal BMI and babies' insulin resistance, even when potential confounders were taken into account.

Lead researcher Dr Patrick Catalano and his colleagues commented: 'To the best of our knowledge, our findings are the first to report that fetuses of obese mothers become insulin resistant in utero.'

Fetal development may be a key period in which long- term growth and energy metabolism are affected, the researchers suggest.

'If prevention is the goal to stem the epidemic of obesity and related problems, then the perinatal period of development may be an important focus of additional research,' they said.

They added: 'Until we attain a better understanding of maternal and feto-placental interactions, strategies to counteract the epidemic of obesity must by necessity be considered treatment rather than prevention.'

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

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