London: Pregnant women need to have an overall healthy diet, high in fruit and vegetables and low in refined carbohydrates and red and processed meats, said a new study which found links between mother’s low-quality diet and higher risk of obesity and excess body fat in children, especially during late-childhood.
The research showed that children of mothers who ate a higher quality diet, low in inflammation-associated foods, during pregnancy had a lower risk of obesity and lower body fat levels in late-childhood than children whose mothers ate a lower quality diet, high in inflammation-associated foods, while pregnant.
This association was not observed in early or mid-childhood, according to the study published the journal BMC Medicine.
“Obesity in childhood often carries on into adulthood and is associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases, including Type-2 diabetes,” said corresponding author of the study Ling-Wei Chen from University College Dublin, Ireland.
Mounting evidence suggest that maternal diet influences pregnancy and birth outcomes and points to the first one thousand days of a child’s life, from conception to two years old, as a critical period for preventing childhood obesity.
To examine the effects of maternal diet on the likelihood of childhood obesity and excess body fat, the authors analysed data collected from 16,295 mother-child pairs in seven European birth cohort studies, from Ireland, France, the UK, the Netherlands and Poland.
On average, mothers were 30 years old and had a healthy body mass index (BMI).
The researchers found that children born to mothers who ate diets high in foods associated with inflammation throughout pregnancy tended to have lower levels of fat-free body mass, indicating lower levels of muscle mass, in late-childhood than those whose mothers ate diets low in inflammation-associated foods.
Previous research has found that low levels of muscle mass may be associated with a higher risk of combined diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity
An association between a lower quality maternal diet, high in inflammation-associated foods, and lower levels of fat-free body mass in late-childhood was found to be stronger in boys than in girls, said the study.