Eating sweets early in pregnancy can mean obese baby

November 12, 2012

Eating sweets early in pregnancy can mean obese baby

Researchers from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and Brown University in Providence have presented findings from their study to the Obesity Society meeting in Orlando. The study relates to the likelihood of babies becoming obese because of their mothers’ eating habits whilst pregnant. The study found that mothers who ate and drank more sugary foods and drinks in the first trimester of pregnancy had an increased chance of having an obese baby than those mothers who ate and drank healthier foods. Suzanne Phelan is an associate professor of kinesiology at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and she says, “There is something about the exposure to sweets in utero that may lead to heavier babies”. She expands that the risk factor does not appear to have an association with any weight that the mother gains during the pregnancy or her weight when she discovered that she was pregnant. The researchers studied 285 women during pregnancy and analyzed their food intake. They then recorded the babies weight at birth and then at 6 months. They found that if the woman’s weight was normal but she drank a lot of sugary drinks in the first trimester then there was an increased likelihood of having a large baby when compared against women who did not drink a lot of sugary drinks. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that during pregnancy a woman who is a normal weight before becoming pregnant should gain between 25 to 35 pounds. Women with a BMI (body mass index) of 25 to 29.9 should only gain between 15 and 25 pounds. Obese ladies who have a BMI of 30 and over should only put on between 11 and 20 pounds. Underweight women at the start of a pregnancy should aim to gain between 28 and 40 pounds.

Other research has shown that about 50% of normal weight women and 67% of women who are overweight or obese put on too much weight during pregnancy. Phelan and colleagues noted in this study that overweight and obese women doubled their risk of having a baby that was overweight or obese at birth and at six months old if they took 20% or more of their calories from sugary foods and drinks. This when compared to obese or overweight women who did not consume 20% of their calories as sugar. “Moms-to-be need to limit their intake of sweets early on in their pregnancy to potentially decrease their baby’s risk of obesity”. She goes on to point out that earlier studies have identified that pregnant women who put on too much extra weight during pregnancy are causing the risk of having a high birth weight baby who will be more likely to become overweight or obese later in life to increase. It has also been seen that overweight and obese pregnant women have a higher incidence of having high birth weight babies with an increased likelihood of those children becoming overweight or obese.

Moderation is the answer according to Emily Oken, who is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and she studies nutrition during pregnancy. She recommends to pregnant women, “You can eat sweets during pregnancy, but not every day. And if you do eat a sweet, go for an extra walk or bike ride or swim”.

Phelan was also involved in another study which investigated whether pregnant women would benefit from a program giving help with diet and exercise. The study had 400 pregnant women participate. Women’s weight classifications ranged from healthy weight to overweight to obese.

The women were split into two groups and one half received advice on healthy eating and exercise, the other half were not given any advice or help.

The researchers found that those who were given advice had more likelihood of remaining at a healthy weight than those given no advice. Limiting calories by avoiding fast food and weighing themselves daily appeared to be the most useful advice.

It was also found that irrespective of weight, the women who were given advice were more likely to return to their pre pregnancy weight. However the overweight and obese women who received the advice did not show any difference relating to weight gain than the obese and overweight women who did not get advice.

So the advice to pregnant women is simply to cut back on your sugar intake as soon as you know that you are pregnant to minimize the likelihood of having a baby who is too heavy.

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