If there were not enough reasons to be concerned about the prevalence of obesity already, here’s another: there is growing evidence that maternal obesity (i.e. obesity in the mother at the beginning or prior to pregnancy) is associated with an increased risk for a number of neurodevelopment outcomes (J Pediatr 2014; 165: 891-6). According to this medical progress report, there are a number of limitations in interpreting the studies associating obesity with these outcomes.
- Unclear what is the best measure of obesity and the best timing of measuring obesity
- “It is unclear whether obesity per se is the entity that causes adverse outcomes, or whether obesity is only a marker for other factors” (eg. diet and activity)
With these limitations in mind, the authors review a number of studies. Key points:
- Cerebral palsy: “a dose-response relationship was seen, with any diagnosis of maternal obesity carrying a relative risk (RR) of 1.30 (95% CI 1.09-1.55) for CP. With any diagnosis of morbid obesity, the RR was 2.70 (CI 1.89-3.86)
- Autism: the risk of developing ASD (OR 1.67; CI 1.10-2.56) and NDD [neurodevelopmental delay] (OR 2.08; CI 1.20-3.61)
- Cognitive deficits: maternal BMI “was inversely associated wit age 5 years IQ”
- Behavioral/psychiatric disorders: “children of women who were both overweight and gained excess weight during pregnancy had a 2-fold (OR 2.10; CI 1.19-3.72) increased risk of ADHD symptoms compared with offspring of normal-weight women.” Also, some studies have shown an increased risk for schizophrenia in children of mothers with BMI >30.
Bottomline: obesity is not good for individuals and is associated with increased neuodevelopmental risk in offspring as well.