Parent’s Obesity Causes Child Development Delays

Posted 02/15/2017 | By HealthCorps

Obesity is a serious, chronic disease.  It’s also a condition that is quite challenging to treat.  If you’re a parent struggling with the disease, then you probably know that obesity can impact your offspring with a number of negative consequences.  A new study suggests that children of obese parents may be at risk of certain developmental delays.

The study featured in Pediatrics used data available from the Upstate KIDS study which aimed to determine if fertility treatments could affect child development from birth through age three.  About 5000 women enrolled in the study about four months after giving birth in New York State (excluding New York City), between 2008 and 2010.  The parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaires after participating in certain activities with their kids.  The intent was to screen for potential problems, so that kids could be referred for further testing and evaluation. Baseline questionnaires were filled out when the kids were four months old, and the children were retested six more times until age three.  

The researchers noted that when overweight or obese mothers were compared to normal weight mothers, their children were nearly 70 percent more likely to fail the test indicator for fine motor skills, by age three.  Children of obese fathers were 75 percent more likely to fail the personality-domain (indicator of how well kids interact with other kids their age) by age three.  Children born to mothers and fathers diagnosed with obesity were nearly three times more likely to fail the problem solving test section by age three.

With one in five pregnant women in the U.S. overweight or obese, this study does indicate some cause for concern.  The authors of the study aren’t clear as to the exact reason behind these findings.  Animal studies have indicated that obese pregnant mice have significantly more general inflammation in their bodies, which could affect the developing offspring’s brain. Research has also suggested that obesity could also have an impact on male sperm quality.

This NIH study highlights obesity’s impact on children’s fine motor skill development, social competence and children’s problem-solving capacity.  These are all important growth milestones in a child’s young life.

If additional studies support these findings, then it may lead physicians, especially pediatricians and family practice specialists, to screen young children born in families where one or both parents are obese, for cognitive and developmental milestone delays, so earlier recommendations and therapies are implemented.

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