Aspiring moms have always been advised to achieve a healthy weight before they become pregnant, and to gain only the recommended amount of weight during their pregnancy. Ongoing studies now show that a child's body-weight-regulating mechanisms may be permanently altered by signals associated with the mother's weight.
Such maternal signals to the unborn child and perhaps in the first few months of life seem to increase the risk that the child would become an overweight or obese adult. They also indicate a higher risk of obesity-related diseases according to studies carried out by Kartik Shankar, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and his colleagues at the Agricultural Research Service.
The current study is a follow-up on a previous study that Shankar and his group published in the American Journal of Physiology several years ago.
In that study, Shankar looked at weight gains among rat pups whose dads were lean and whose mothers were either lean or overweight (from overfeeding) before conception and throughout pregnancy.
All the offspring had normal weight at birth and at weaning. However, when the weaned offspring were given free access to an unlimited amount of high-fat rations, the offspring of overweight moms responded to the high-fat rations differently. They showed significantly more weight gain, and more of that weight as fat, than did the offspring of lean mother’s.
This study strongly suggested that exposure to the mother's obesity while in the womb influences the offspring's metabolism and body-weight-control mechanisms. The mothers' obesity alone was sufficient to significantly increase the pups' susceptibility to obesity.