Studies have shown that maternal body mass index (BMI) pre pregnancy can be a predictor of childhood obesity in their offspring. So healthy eating and improved exercise in mothers before they fall pregnant may attenuate some of this risk and reduce the subsequent risk of obesity related diseases later in their children’s lives.
Researchers studied the effects of high and low fat maternal diets in mice and subsequent obesity susceptibility and insulin resistance in their offspring.
The female mice were on either a high fat (HFD) or low fat diet (LFD) before falling pregnant. After falling pregnant and giving birth, their offspring were fed a LFD until 15 weeks of age, and then put on a HFD until the end of the study (25 weeks).
At seven weeks of age half of the group were given access to a running wheel for voluntary exercise training. A number of measurements were taken including endurance exercise capacity and training efficiency, oral glucose tolerance test and pancreatic insulin measurement.
The results showed that maternal HFD increased the risk of obesity in offspring and reduced the effect of exercise on fat mass. Furthermore, maternal HFD reduced the beneficial effects of exercise on HFD-induced insulin resistance in their offspring. The voluntary running wheel training improved endurance capacity in children whose mothers were on a LFD but not those who were on a HFD.
This research was in mice so care needs to be taken in extrapolating to human mothers. If it is applicable, the findings further support the need for women to maintain optimal health before and during their pregnancy. There’s plenty of research to show it will benefit both their own health and the health of their children.