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Children of moms who smoke or are overweight may have higher risk of obesity

Mothers who smoke or are overweight during pregnancy may increase their child's risk of being obese later in life, according to findings published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

In the study, Canadian researchers evaluated data on nearly 2,000 children whose height and weight measurements had been taken annually from the age of 5 months to 8 years as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. Researchers used the data to identify three trajectory groups of body mass index (BMI): children with low but stable BMI, children with moderate BMI, and children whose BMI was elevated and rising, called high-rising BMI.

The study showed that the trajectories of all three groups were similar until the age of two and a half when the BMIs of the high-rising group of children began to rise significantly. By the time this group moved into middle school more than half of them met the international criteria for being obese. Medical News Today reports:

Researchers found two factors that may explain this: the mothers' weight around the time they gave birth and whether the mothers smoked. A child with a mother who was overweight or who smoked during pregnancy was significantly more likely to be in the high-rising group. These two factors were found to be much more important than the other criteria that were studied, such as the child's birth weight.

Researchers were careful to note that until further research is completed, these risk factors represent increased probabilities of becoming overweight but not direct causes. However, a growing body of scientific evidence shows that being overweight or smoking during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for mom and baby beyond potentially raising the child's risk of obesity. For the health of mom and baby the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend moms-to-be follow these guidelines.

Previously: Scientists take a divide-and-conquer approach to combating childhood obesity, Obesity in kids: A growing and dangerous epidemic, First Lady touts breastfeeding's ability to prevent childhood obesity and Survey highlights states' childhood-obesity rates
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