Children with Obese Parents Face Higher Risk of Developmental Delays: NIH Research

Children with Obese Parents Face Higher Risk of Developmental Delays: NIH Research

Children with obese parents face an increased risk of developmental delay as per a new research conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The research suggests that children of obese parents have higher risk of being slow learners and they could also be clumsy. Obese mothers have generally performed worse in motor skill tests compared to health weight mothers and this could be inherited by child as well, the research suggests. The research team also found that in case the father is obese, the child has higher risk of failure in social competence tests. The study has been published in the journal Pediatrics.

The research was led by Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., an investigator in NICHD's Division of Intramural Population Health Research. The study was conducted by researchers at the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Obesity levels have been rising in all developed countries and government health agencies have been working hard to raise awareness among people regarding risks associated with obesity.

The research team also noted that nearly 20 percent of pregnant women in the United States are overweight or obese. This means that nearly 20 percent of children face higher risk of developmental delays. People should keep a strict check on their diet and physical activity. Another research published by NIH recently and posted by Perf Science in an earlier column suggested that obesity leads to changes in brain chemical dopamine which stokes sedentary lifestyle among overweight people.

The NIH research team evaluated data collected by the Upstate KIDS study. The study aimed to check the impact of fertility treatments on development of child till age of three years. The study included over 5,000 women in New York State and was conducted between 2008 and 2010. Children were checked at 4 months and then every six months till they reached age of three years. The study found that kids of obese mothers had 70 percent higher risk of failing in the test indicator on fine motor skill by age 3.

The study team added that earlier studies conducted on animals have found that obesity during pregnancy could lead to inflammation which can impact fetal brain. However, more research is needed to check the impact of paternal obesity on development of child.

Dr. Young added, “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 dad's weight also has significant influence on child development.”

A report published by Daily Mail informed, "The team admitted that they could not say what was causing the link between obese parents and developmental problems, but said animal studies showed that obesity during pregnancy may promote inflammation, which could affect the fetal brain."

Children of obese fathers were 75 percent more likely to fail the test's personal-social domain--an indicator of how well they were able to relate to and interact with others by age 3. Children with two obese parents were nearly three times more likely to fail the test's problem solving section by age 3.

It is not known why parental obesity might increase children's risk for developmental delay. The authors note that animal studies indicate that obesity during pregnancy may promote inflammation, which could affect the fetal brain. Less information is available on the potential effects of paternal obesity on child development. The authors added that some studies have indicated that obesity could affect the expression of genes in sperm.

The study was funded by NIH.