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Obese Mothers Risk Shortening the Lives of Their Children

20/10/2016

Obese Mothers Risk Shortening the Lives of Their ChildrenBabies whose mothers are obese or overweight are at risk of living considerably shorter lives, according to new research from Belgium.

In fact, mothers who are overweight or obese risk shortening the lives of their babies by as much as 17 years.

The researchers analysed information from 743 mothers aged between 17 and 44, and their newborn babies, using samples of blood from their umbilical cords immediately after delivery.

Focusing on the length of the babies' telomeres, which are the caps on the end of chromosomes that protect them from damage, the researchers discovered a strong link between the Body Mass Index (BMI) of mothers and the length of their babies' telomeres.

Specifically, they found that for every increase in the mother's BMI point above a normal level, the baby's telomeres were approximately 50 base pairs shorter. That's the equivalent of being 1.1 to 1.6 years older.

The length of a person's telomeres is used as a good indicator of their biological age as they naturally shorten as people get older. The telomeres of babies whose mothers had a BMI of 40 suggested they were 17 years older biologically, placing them at higher risk of illness and premature death.

In a statement accompanying the findings of the research, study co-author Tim Nawrot, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Hasselt University in Belgium, said: "Our results add to the growing body of evidence that high maternal BMI impacts fetal [DNA] programming, which could lead to altered fetal development and later life diseases."
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