Obese Plus Pregnant — Proceed With Caution

If only this were an April Fool joke — but sadly, the phenomenon discussed here is all too serious. An overwhelming pile of evidence says that obese women tend to produce obese children. In 2016, more than two-thirds of America’s reproductive-age women were overweight or obese — a statistic that can only have worsened since then.

Researchers reported that a high-fat, high-sugar diet, fed to a pre-pregnant and pregnant mouse, can affect the lives of not only her pups, but the “grand-pups, and great-grand pups.” Even when those descendants are given healthful rodent chow, they tend to develop insulin resistance and related abnormalities of the metabolic system, that make them susceptible to diabetes and obesity. According to MedicalDaily.com,

[T]he mother’s mitochondrial DNA, which is responsible for converting food into energy, becomes defective in the unfertilized egg as a result of poor diet choices. Because mitochondria has its own set of genes that are inherited only from the mother and not the father, researchers conclude that the defect is passed on exclusively from the mother’s bloodline.

Within weeks, Genome Medicine published a study of pregnant women’s eating habits that revealed more about how the process of converting food to energy can be corrupted:

Women who ate more fat on a regular basis significantly decreased the babies’ levels of Bacteroides in the gut — a key species of bacteria that’s designed to break down and extract energy from carbohydrates.

[R]esearchers… sequenced the DNA of the infants’ bacterial community and found it confirmed the mothers’ diets were a prediction of how their babies’ guts would poorly process carbohydrates in the long run.

The following year, JAMA Pediatrics published a study showing that…

[…] obesity during pregnancy places women at a higher risk of having an infant with macrosomia, a condition characterized by atypically large body size at birth…

Obese women tend to have fetuses with not only bigger bodies, but bigger heads, which could be an “ouch” situation from the mothers’ perspective.

Head size does not predict intelligence

By now, the public is well aware that exposure to lead in early childhood can have dire consequences. Not long ago, a UT Austin research team found that being born to an obese mother can have the same IQ-lowering effect, at least in boys. Before that problem even has a chance to become evident, a precursor effect shows up when boys are very young, with markedly lagging motor skills development.

Assistant professor of nutritional sciences Elizabeth Widen told a reporter that dietary and behavioral differences may be responsible, or fetal development could be influenced by events that “tend to happen in the bodies of people with too much extra weight, such as inflammation, metabolic stress, hormonal disruptions and high amounts of insulin and glucose.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obese Pregnant Women With Poor Diets May Worsen The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Study,” MedicalDaily.com, 06/16/16
Source: “Eating A High-Fat Diet When Pregnant Could Hurt Your Baby’s Gut Health,” 
MedicalDaily.com, 08/08/16
Source: “Fetuses of obese mothers have higher weight, larger head circumferences and some longer bones, according to a new study,” MDMag.com, November 2017
Source: “Obesity in pregnant moms linked to lag in their sons’ development and IQ,” NeuroscienceNews.com, 12/20/19
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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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