If you're fat, it might be because of the way your mother ate when she was pregnant. A high-fat diet during pregnancy can lead to obese children. And mothers who were mistreated as children have an increased risk of giving birth to low birth weight babies.
This is often (but not always) part of growing up in poverty. Researcher said Amelia Gavin says, "Our findings suggest that a mother's economic position in childhood and her experience of maltreatment during childhood have implications for her children born years later. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that maternal childhood maltreatment may lead to lower birth weight among later-born offspring."
But mothers of twins are doing fine: compared with other mothers, women who deliver twins live longer and have more children than expected. Researcher Ken R. Smith says, "Women who twin naturally have something that makes them healthier. “We are able to see that in these ancestral women because they had many children and had no fertility treatments. They have left a legacy through their descendants who may all share this desirable trait of being healthier."
Despite improvements in prenatal care, the rate of small-sized births has increased since the mid-1980s: Each year about 8% of babies in the United States have low birth weight--due to growth restriction in the womb or from being born prematurely--puts newborns at a greater risk for death before their first birthday. Babies with low birth weights who survive their first year are more likely to develop obesity, diabetes and other health risks later in life. And a recent study of rates suggests that a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet causes an excess of free radicals during pregnancy, predisposing the offspring to obesity and diabetes.
Neonatologist Rebecca A. Simmons says, "We already know that there are critical periods during human development that influence the later development of obesity. This research suggests that if we can prevent inflammation and oxidative stress during pregnancy, we may lower the risk that a child will develop obesity."
Finicky eaters may have gotten that way in the womb: The flavors of carrots, garlic, and vanilla not only wind up in mother's milk but even in amniotic fluid, and babies prefer foods that they have "tasted" before they were born. So if Mom ate a varied diet while pregnant, chances are her child will too.
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