The Alarming Connection Between Our Weight & Our Kids' Development

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Most moms and dads want to be fit and healthy so they're able to keep up with their little guys, but now research suggests there's even more at stake. According to a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, children of obese parents could be at risk for developmental delays -- and that includes dads. 




Researchers at the National Institutes of Health examined data collected from the Upstate KIDS study which included more than 5,000 women who participated between 2008 and 2010. The mothers enrolled approximately four months after giving birth and offered information about their health and weight both pre- and post-pregnancy, as well as the weight of their baby's father.  

In order to determine if obesity played a role in child development, parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, which screens young children in a way that allows professionals to gauge developmental progress, after engaging in activities with their kids at 4 months old. The children were tested again six more times up until the age of 3 years old. 

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The study found that children born to obese moms were almost 70 percent more likely to fail fine motor skill tests by age 3 than their peers who were born to moms within a normal weight range.

And that's not all. The study also revealed that children fathered by obese men were 75 percent more likely to fail the test's personal-social domain, which indicates how well kids are able to interact and relate to others by the age of 3. Further, kids who were born to parents who are both obese were almost three times more inclined to fail problem-solving ability tests by the age of 3. 

These findings are definitely concerning given obesity statistics, which the study places at 20 to 30 of all adults. For those who are already trying to get into shape before having children, this news could be the impetus they need. 

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What's unique about this study is that it takes dads' weight into consideration as well. 

"The previous US 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," the study's first author, Edwina Yeung, PhD, noted in a news release.

While it's not clear why exactly being born to obese parents impacts a child's development, prior studies conducted on animals have found that obesity during pregnancy may promote inflammation which affects the fetal brain. 

Though more research is needed to explore possible connections between obesity and developmental impairment, the study authors believe that if their findings can be further proven, it would be wise for pediatricians to consider mom and dad's weight when testing the developmental progress and skills of babies and toddlers. 

For many kids, catching an issue early and working on it can be the key to catching up with their peers. 

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