Children of obese mothers at risk of developing schizophrenia and drug addiction – study
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New research has found that severe obesity in pregnant mothers heightens the risk of the unborn baby developing long-term mental health problems by 60 percent. The study found that having a BMI of more than 35 while pregnant increases the baby’s chance of developing mental health issues. Serious ramifications of obesity on the foetus include drug abuse and schizophrenia.
In the study, published in Scientific Reports, scientists from Scotland and Helsinki analysed data from a long-running study in Aberdeen that tracks the long-term health of mothers and their children.
Researchers analysed data from more than 68,000 pairs of mothers and firstborn children born at the Aberdeen Maternity Hospital between 1950 and 1999.
The findings showed that maternal weight during pregnancy had a significant impact on the long-term health of the baby.
Adults born of severely obese women in the period from 1975 to 1999 had a 60 percent higher risk of developing mental illness.
READ MORE: Alarming figures lay bare the toll obesity is taking on nation’s health
However, researchers found that underweight mothers appeared to be the greater predictor of adult mental illness among children born from 1950 to 1974.
Of the 58,634 mothers in the study who had children between 1975 and 1099, 1,553 were severely obese.
The likelihood of the child having drug addiction was pushed up by 91 percent and made the child 2.8 times more likely to have schizophrenia.
Although the overall prevalence of the conditions was low, researchers noted that the relative risk compared to a mother of average weight is much higher.
They wrote: “Our findings may carry important public health implications by underlining possible lifelong effects of maternal BMI on offspring psychopathology.
“Our findings linking maternal severe obesity to offspring mental disorders also in adulthood are of particular concern given the rising prevalence of severe obesity among pregnant women.”
The study authors noted they were unable to reveal why obesity in pregnant women increases the threat to her unborn child, they speculated it was probably due to physical stresses.
The scientists added: “Neurobiologically, inflammatory pathways and other mechanisms related to an individual’s altered stress vulnerability because of maternal obesity or underweight may have contributed to our findings.
“Obesity in pregnancy is a highly pro-inflammatory state, and prenatal inflammation has been associated with psychopathology risk in the offspring.”
According to the Telegraph, the Government is considering launching a rewards programme for families who adopt a healthier diet and increase their exercise levels.
Last year, the UK Government set out a new anti-obesity strategy, with a ban on unhealthy food adverts before 9pm and a campaign to encourage health lifestyles.
But the number of obesity cases in the UK remains high, with around one in three UK adults thought to be affected.
During the period from 2019 to 2020, there were over one million hospital admissions where obesity was a contributing factor – 64 percent of the patients admitted to hospital were women.
According to Formulate Health, this was an increase of 17 percent on the previous year.
Carrying large amounts of body fat has previously been linked to greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Treatments for obesity often focus on weight loss through healthy diet and exercise – but anti-obesity medicine can also help in some cases.
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