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Children Of Obese Parents At Risk Of Developmental Delays, Study Found

Update Date: Jan 04, 2017 09:00 AM EST
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Children of obese parents are at a higher risk of developmental delays, a new study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, shows how the effects of obesity could transcend generations. The researchers found that kids of obese mothers have an increased risk of fine motor skills problems while children of obese fathers were more likely to fail measures of social competence. Moreover, children born to both extremely obese parents are prone to failing tests of problem-solving ability.

Effects Of Obesity On The Development Of Babies

In the United States, approximately one in five women is obese when they become pregnant, having a body mass index of 30 and above. However, only a few studies have looked at the father's weight, even if about 20 to 30 percent of adults in the country are obese.

"The previous U.S. studies in this area have focused on the mothers' pre- and post-pregnancy weight," Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said in a press release by the NICHD.

"Our study is one of the few that also includes information about fathers, and our results suggest that dad's weight also has a significant influence on child development," she added.

The researchers at the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) wanted to know more about the link between parental obesity and the development of their children.

They reviewed data from the Upstate KIDS study, which was originally conducted to determine the effects of infertility treatments on child development from birth through 3 years of age. More than 5,000 women enrolled in the study about 4 months after giving birth from 2008 to 2010.

The parents answered the Ages and Stages Questionnaire after doing activities with their kids. The children were tested at 4 months of age and again at 6 months old until they were 3 years old.

"The questionnaire is a screening tool. It's an indicator of whether a child is on track for behaviors appropriate to his or her age," Yeung said as reported by CNN.

What They Found

Children born to obese mothers were about 70 percent more likely to fail the test indicator for fine motor skill, the ability to control small muscle movements in the fingers and hands. On the other hand, children of obese fathers were 75 percent more likely to fail in tests pertaining to the personal-social domain.

Kids of obese parents (both the mother and father are obese) are three times more likely to fail the problem-solving part of the test by 3 years old.

Though the exact cause of why parental obesity could increase the risk of developmental delays in children is still unclear, the researchers said that it could possibly be due to inflammation. Studies on animals show that obesity during pregnancy may cause inflammation, which can affect the fetal brain.

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