“This study demonstrates that a woman’s BMI affects the amount of fat in her baby at birth. Fatter women have fatter babies and there is more fat in the babies’ livers. If these effects persist through childhood and beyond, they could put the child at risk of lifelong metabolic health problems,” explained lead researcher, Prof Neena Modi, of Imperial College London.
The team carried out MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans on 105 sleeping babies in order to measure the total amount of fat in their bodies, including in their liver cells, and the way the fat was distributed.
The study showed that the higher a mother’s BMI was before she got pregnant, the more fat a baby had in their body, particularly around the abdomen and in the liver.
The researchers pointed out that children born to overweight and obese mothers are more likely to become overweight or obese themselves. They also have a higher risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
According to the team, the higher levels of fat found in some babies may signal the first biological changes, which if combined with unhealthy practises, may significantly increase the risk of poorer health in the future.
“There is growing evidence that a baby’s development before birth has a major impact on their health in later life. This means that the prevention of obesity needs to begin in the womb.
“We need to identify what the optimal BMI for the mother is so we can help women ensure that their bodies are in the best possible condition before they get pregnant,” Prof Modi said.