Diet, Exercise for Obese Moms May Cut Kids’ Heart Risk

Researchers from King’s have identified evidence to suggest that lifestyle changes could offset the the risk of some adult heart disorders that result from maternal obesity and changes in fetal heart development.

Obesity rates during pregnancy are increasing globally, with more than 50% of women who attend antenatal clinics in England and Wales being classified as having overweight (28.5%) or obesity (22.7%). Recent reviews have shown that maternal obesity can lead to complications for cardiovascular health and abnormal heart development in children.

Recently published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers led by Dr Samuel Burden undertook a systematic review of the existing data from studies that have investigated whether lifestyle interventions in maternal obesity, either before or during pregnancy, result in healthier hearts in children.

The team identified studies based on pre-determined criteria and included randomised trials of lifestyle interventions in pregnant women with obesity, such as antenatal exercise, diet, and physical activity.

The studies examined suggest that lifestyle interventions in women with obesity could prevent abnormal heart ‘development’ in children. This includes benefits which are all typically associated with better heart health such as reduced thickening of the heart walls, normal heart weight and less risk of elevated heart rates.

Although there is evidence to suggest that lifestyle interventions in women with obesity may protect against cardiovascular risk in infants, further longitudinal studies with larger sample sizes and in older children are required to confirm these observations and to determine whether these changes persist to adulthood.

If confirmed in future studies, then the authors suggest that these findings will help to inform public health strategies to improve the cardiovascular health of the next generation.

You can access the full paper here: DOI:10.1038/s41366-024-01536-0

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