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24-03-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Children’s weight linked to maternal weight status


Free abstract

MedWire News: Children whose mothers are obese are more likely to be overweight than those whose mothers are not obese, research shows.

Writing in the journal Nutrition, Nelia Patricia Steyn (Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa) and team report that children of obese mothers (body mass index [BMI] ≥30 kg/m2) had significantly higher mean weight-for-age Z-scores, a measure of childhood weight status, than nonobese mothers.

Furthermore, underweight (BMI <18.5 kg/m2) women were significantly more likely to have underweight children than those who were not underweight.

The authors note that the increasing prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, largely due to an increasing prevalence of obesity, are major health burdens in sub-Saharan African countries.

The researchers evaluated anthropometric measures of children (aged 1-9 years) and their mothers (aged 16-35 years) living in South Africa, who were residing in the same households and who participated in the 2005 National Food Consumption Survey (n=1532).

In mothers, the overall prevalence of overweight (BMI ≥25 kg/m2) and obesity was high, at 55.3%, with nearly 46.0% of young mothers (16-25 years) and 59.6% of older mothers (26-35 years) being overweight or obese. Only 4.0% of mothers in the survey were underweight, however.

Steyn et al say there were significant differences between maternal weight status and the weight status of their children.

In total, 84% of overweight children had mothers with a BMI ≥25 kg/m2 and 52% had mothers with a BMI ≥30 kg/m2, while 76% of underweight children had mothers with a BMI <30 kg/m2 and 57% had mothers with a BMI <25 kg/m2.

The team says that being unemployed, educated to a low level, or having no refrigerator, stove, or television in the house increased the respective risk for maternal underweight 2.86-, 2.05-, 2.82-, 1.85-, and 2.39-fold. In addition, these factors significantly protected against maternal overweight.

Therefore, Steyn's team suggests that socioeconomic status may be partly responsible for the significant associations between weight status of mothers and the weight of their children in this population.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers

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