Children born to obese parents may be facing developmental delays, a study from the National Institutes of Health has found. The study looked at obese fathers as well as mothers.
Obesity in parents has already been linked to their children being overweight. There's more bad news. A new study found these kids may also be at risk for developmental delays. For the first time, the researchers said, their national study also looked at the negative impact obesity in fathers can have on their children.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers, writing in Pediatrics, found these kids were more likely to fail tests of fine motor skills. In another finding, children of obese fathers were found less likely than normal-weight children to be socially competent, and those born to parents who were both extremely obese had relatively poor problem-solving ability.
Edwina Yeung, PhD, and colleagues at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development noted that the findings are particularly important since one in five pregnant women in the US is overweight or obese.
“Physicians may need to take parental weight into account when screening young children for delays and early interventional services,” the team cautioned.
The authors looked at data from the Upstate KIDS study, a project whose original intent was to look at the impact of fertility treatments on children born to parents who got such interventions.
The subjects in the NIH study were more than 5,000 women in New York, excluding New York City, who were enrolled about four months after giving birth. The written test used in the research was the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. Participants were also evaluated after performing a series of activities with their children.
Among the findings: children of obese mothers were nearly 70% more likely to have failed a fine motor skill test by age 3, and children of obese fathers were 75% more likely to fail a personal-social domain test, which the researchers indicated they were less able to relate to others by age three.
Children with two obese parents were nearly three times more likely to fail the test’s problem-solving section.
The researchers did not attempt to learn the mechanisms underlying their findings, but said they could be biological.
“Animal studies indicate that obesity during pregnancy may promote inflammation, which could affect the fetal brain,” the NIH noted in a news release.
It is also possible that obesity could affect the expression of genes in sperm, the authors said.
The Pediatrics study is entitled “ Parental Obesity and Early Childhood Development.”