Here’s another reason it’s key that people maintain a healthy weight. According to findings published in the journal Pediatrics, babies born to obese parents may be at an increased risk for developmental delays that affect their growth, motor and social functions early in life, CNN reports.
For the study, researchers reviewed data from an ongoing study, called Upstate KIDS, that tracks the development of more than 6,000 children, up to the age of 6, born in New York state. To evaluate the possible effects of obesity on kids’ rates of growth and motor and social functions, scientists checked information on 4,821 children, age 4 months to 3 years old, who had at least one obese parent and compared the results with those of children whose parents were of healthy weights.
Findings showed that, in general, obese mothers and fathers passed on different developmental issues to their offspring. For example, children of obese moms were significantly more likely to have difficulty using small muscles, such as those in their fingers or hands. Kids of obese fathers experienced difficulty feeding, undressing and playing. (Children born to obese mothers or fathers were also more likely to fail problem-solving tests.)
While it’s still unclear how parental obesity is correlated with developmental delays in children, study authors offered some hypotheses. “Obesity is correlated with a rise in inflammation and in hormones that regulate body fat and metabolism. One theory is that these hormones might influence the development of the baby’s brain,” wrote Edwina Yeung, PhD, a researcher at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the lead study author.
Other explanations posited that a mother’s high blood sugar or a shortage of nutrients during pregnancy might influence the development of a baby’s brain. Additionally, previous research hypothesized that obesity could affect the expression of genes in sperm, which also might pose a risk to childhood development.
Finally, researchers stressed that although these findings are interesting, all theories must be confirmed by further studies.
Click here to learn more about how the negative health effects of obesity can be passed down from parents to children.