Maternal Obesity Linked to Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Offspring of obese pregnancies may be at higher risk in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood

MONDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal obesity and overweight may be linked to neurodevelopmental problems in offspring in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood, according to a review published online March 17 in Obesity Reviews.

Ryan J. Van Lieshout, M.D., from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and colleagues reviewed literature available until 2010 to examine the association between maternal overweight and obesity, weight gain during pregnancy, and neurodevelopmental outcomes in the offspring. A total of 12 studies were included, which examined associations between obesity (measured by maternal body mass index [BMI] or weight gain) and cognitive, psychological, behavioral, emotional, or psychiatric outcomes measured in children older than 1 month.

The investigators found that eight studies provided evidence of a link between maternal obesity and overweight and cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems in offspring. Five of these studies clearly supported an association between maternal obesity and neurodevelopmental problems, while three provided mixed support of a link with childhood IQ, attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, negative emotionality, and schizophrenia. The remaining four studies did not support the association. Most of the studies that examined obesity found BMI to be a significant predictor of neurodevelopmental problems in offspring.

"These data suggest that the offspring of obese pregnancies may be at increased risk of cognitive problems and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in childhood, eating disorders in adolescence, and psychotic disorders in adulthood," the authors write.

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