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Study: Maternal obesity linked to children's cardiovascular disease

Finnish scientists behind the study also discovered gestational diabetes had little effect on children’s health.

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Finnish researchers say young children of obese mothers are predisposed to having high blood pressure and early stage arterial wall thickening. However children whose mothers developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy showed few adverse health outcomes, according to new findings by Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) researchers.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of the death among adults in the western world, and scientists say signs of the condition can already begin developing in the foetal stage.

Dangerous extra weight

HUS researchers found that a child’s high body weight correlated to arterial wall thickening and adverse changes to the heart.

”It’s important to combat obesity in early childhood even if cardiovascular markers are not yet present,” said paediatric cardiologist Taisto Sarkola. “It’s a lot more difficult to counter obesity in the teenage years.”

Researchers found that six-year-olds whose mothers had gestational diabetes were not predisposed to weight gain nor did they show signs of developing markers for cardiovascular disease.

The study followed 201 mother-child pairs for six years after the child’s birth, and only included moms who had developed diabetes during pregnancy or whose body mass index (BMI) exceeded 30. BMI is determined by dividing a person's weight by the square of his or her height. It considers any adult with a BMI of 25 or more to be overweight, while those with 30 or more are obese.

Next, HUS plans to home in on blood pressure, examining how the condition passes from one generation to the next. The research project will focus on mothers who had high blood pressure during pregnancy as well as their 8-11 year-old children.

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