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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Children's Health Channel
Reported April 12, 2011

Mom Could Be Making You Fat

Fernanda Barros, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Diet and exercise are simple ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Genes also play an important part in our development, but did you know that what your mother eats while pregnant plays a big part in how you live today?

With the rise of maternal obesity, recent studies have been investigating the impact of over nutrition on the development of adult diseases. The result suggests that the offspring of obese mothers are more likely to become obese.

“If you had asked doctors 20 years ago, ‘Does a mother’s diet have any difference in the outcome of the health of the baby?’ and even specialists on that field would have said, 'Absolutely not,” Larry McCleary, M.D., a neurosurgeon and author of Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly, told Ivanhoe.
During pregnancy, there are special times called critical periods where the fetus is exposed to environmental pressures, and Dr. McCleary says those pressures could making you fat today.

“During that period of time, the exposure of the nutritional environment of the mother onto the fetus programs or sets in stone how the baby is going to react when it’s born,” Dr. McCleary explained. “ If the mother is eating too many calories, or too much sugar, those go from the mother to the baby, and the baby’s metabolism in this critical period senses all of that and says, 'This is how life is going to be like when I’m born. I better get ready for that.'"

Dr. McCleary says the different size of newborn babies is a good example of this. A study of how changes in fetal nutrition affect health many years later assessed the risk of developing diabetes in 64-year-old men in relation to their birth weight.  Results showed the smallest babies were six-times more likely to become diabetic six decades later.

“Infants can be born small but have been exposed to mothers who have gained excessive weight, and while the babies are not excessively heavy, what’s interesting is they have an extraordinary amount of fat,” Dr. McCleary said.

Insulin is the primary growth hormone in fetus. High glucose levels in the maternal circulation induce the transfer of increased amounts of glucose across the placenta into the fetus. This is like feeding your baby excessive amounts of sugar.

“You want to give the baby a kind of stable dose of sugar, you want it to be not too much but just enough," Dr. McCleary said. “That happens then the baby is not exposed to starvation or to excessive calories and excessive sugar, so when the baby is born, it knows how much to eat. It responds appropriately, and it doesn’t get into those problems of accumulating calories and fat cells and getting fat prematurely.”

Dr. McCleary says women who want to become pregnant should avoid gaining excessive weight during pregnancy, and they should also eat a diet that maintains normal blood glucose and insulin levels.

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SOURCE:  Interview with Dr. Larry McCleary, 19th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging and Aesthetic Medicine, held in Orlando, FL, April 7-9, 2011

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