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Obesity During Pregnancy Can Lead To Problems In Children

Newborns whose mothers were obese at the start of pregnancy, are twice as likely to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as adolescents.

Obesity During Pregnancy Can Lead To Problems In Children

Maintaining pregnancy weight and having only 300 extra calories per day leads to healthy fetal growth

Here's another reason to start eating healthy during pregnancy. Being overweight during pregnancy does not only put the mother at risk of various health problems like gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and sleep apnea but can also affect the child and can lead to macrosomnia, preterm birth and still birth.

Also, a recent study from the University of Western Australia has warned that newborns, who had obese mothers at the start of pregnancy, were twice as likely to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as adolescents. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is increasingly common especially in the west. In the United States, it is the most common form of chronic liver disease, affecting an estimated 80 to 100 million people.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol. As the name implies, the main characteristic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is too much fat stored in liver cells. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a potentially serious form of the disease, is marked by liver inflammation, which may progress to scarring and irreversible damage. This damage is similar to the damage caused by heavy alcohol use. At its most severe, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure and associated with obesity and insulin resistance.

Obese pregnant women may transmit their metabolic phenotype to offspring, leading to a cycle of obesity and diabetes over generations. Early childhood obesity predicts non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The fetus may be vulnerable to steatosis because immature fetal adipose depots are not available to buffer the excess transplacental lipid delivery in maternal obesity. The generational transfer of NAFLD may occur via epigenetic changes in offspring liver. Transmission of micro-biota from mother to infant may impact energy retention and immune function that contribute to a predisposition to NAFLD.

The study also found that adolescent children of women, who were obese at the start of pregnancy, were twice as likely to have NAFLD, while those fed with infant formula milk before completing six months of breastfeeding had a 40 percent increased likelihood of NAFLD. Lead investigator Perth said that there have been studies about the benefits of breastfeeding on other diseases, but there is little information about breastfeeding linked to liver disease. The records of Australian adolescents to establish whether infant nutrition and maternal factors could be associated with the subsequent diagnosis of NAFLD, were examined. "A healthy weight of the mother and support with initiation and persistence with breastfeeding may have later benefits for the liver in their children and this provides additional reasons to support opportunities for women to breastfeed their infants for at least six months while delaying the start of infant formula milk. The important nurturing role of mothers in child health should not be underestimated" added the researchers.

"Human breast milk is indeed complex and it may contain various biologically-active constituents with a protective effect upon obesity and obesity-related conditions that remain largely unexplored. The mechanisms for this merit further study." Dr. Alisi and Dr. Vajro also emphasized the study's findings that there is a significantly increased risk of NAFLD in offspring of mothers who smoked at the start of pregnancy. This substantiates the results of a number of previous studies dealing with the epidemiology of childhood overweight and obesity.

The team performed liver ultrasound on more than 1,100 adolescents aged 17 years and were followed even before their birth. The study found that NAFLD was diagnosed in about 15 percent of the adolescents examined. 94 percent had been breastfed as infants. The duration of breastfeeding before starting supplementary milk was four months in 55 percent and six months in 40 percent. The researchers explained that this study further provided additional reasons to support opportunities for women to breastfeed their infants for at least six months while delaying the start of infant formula milk. "This study further supports the need to encourage comprehensive healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy and prolonged exclusive breastfeeding for the long-term health benefits of future generations," the team concluded.

(Inputs from ANI)

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