According to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, children of obese parents may be at risk of developmental delays.
The researchers discovered that kids of obese mothers were more likely to fail tests of fine motor skills, such as the ability to control the movement of small muscles, like those found in the fingers and hands.
While the kids of obese fathers were more probable to fail tests of social measure, the kids born to extremely obese were more likely to fail tests of the nature of problem solving skills.
The study was conducted by scientists at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and appeared in the journal Pediatrics.
Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., an investigator in NICHD’s Division of Intramural Population Health Research and the study’s first author said, “The previous U.S. studies in this area have focused on the mothers’ pre- and post-pregnancy weight.
Our study is one of the few that also includes information about fathers, and our results suggest that the dad’s weight also has significant influence on child development.”
Dr. Yeng mentioned that 1 in 5 pregnant women in the US, is obese or overweight. The research assessed the data collected from the Upstate KIDS study in this research.
The Upstate KIDS research used to seek answers about whether fertility treatments have an impact on a child’s development from birth through age 3.
More than 5,000 women enrolled in the study approximately 4 months after giving birth in New York State, which did not include New York City, between 2008 and 2010.
To determine the kids’ development, parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaire after performing a series of activities with their children.
The test isn’t meant to diagnose specific disabilities, but serves as a screen for possible issues, so that children can be assessed for further testing.
The participating children in the study were tested at 4 months of age and retested, at different stages, 6 more times through age 3.
When the participants had been selected, mothers also provided data related to their health and weight, before and after pregnancy, and also provided the weight of their partners.
Compared to kids of mothers who had normal weight, kids of obese mothers were almost 70 percent more likely to not pass the test indicator on fine motor skill by age 3.
Children of obese fathers were 75 percent more likely to fail the test’s section that dealt with social interactions, which is an indicator of how well their performance was in terms of being able to socially interact and relate with others by age 3.
Children with two obese parents were almost three times more likely to fail the test’s problem solving section by age 3.
It is unclear why the parent’s obesity affects a kids’ developmental processes and what actually delays it.
The researchers suggest that according to studies conducted in animals, obesity during pregnancy may cause inflammation, which could impact the fetal brain’s development process.
The researchers also noted that regarding human parent’s obesity effect on their children, the data was quite scant. The researchers added, that the little data that is available points towards obesity adversely affecting the genetic expression of sperm cells.
The researchers concluded that doctor might have to take into consideration parental weight when screening young children for developmental delays and this will impact early interventional services, in the future, if the link between parental obesity and developmental delays is scientifically established.
Other studies have also pointed out a similar trend of babies getting affected by their mother’s obesity, as young as when they are in their womb.
A study presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 75th Scientific Sessions suggested that the mother’s in-utero environment might play a role in this regard.
The mother programs the baby’s cells to accumulate excessive amounts of fat, or alters the baby’s normal metabolism, potentially leading to insulin resistance, which in turn causes obesity in children when they grow up.
The study involved extracting stem cells from umbilical cords that had been donated. These cords belonged to babies from both normal weight mothers and obese mothers at their first pre-natal visit.
The stem cells were then cultured in the lab to develop into fat and muscle cells.
Results showed that the fat content was 30 percent higher in both the cells cultured from the stem cells obtained from umbilical cords of babies, who had obese mothers.
Further investigation into whether the cells have altered metabolic features is also underway.
Therefore, further studies are required to prominently establish the link between these two factors.