Lives of children may decrease by 17 years if mother is overweight or obese

New research has suggested that mothers who are overweight or obese could be shortening the lifespan of their child by as much as 17 years, compared to mothers of a healthy weight.
Scientists from Hasselt University in Belgium investigated the link between pre-pregnancy Body Mass Index (BMI) and the length of telomeres in their newborn.
Telomeres are protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, which help prevent DNA from deteriorating, and they shorten with age. They are considered to be a marker of biological age; cells can divide more often the longer telomeres are, but shorter telomeres limit how many times cells can divide, therefore making them an indicator of the ageing process.
Additionally, having shorter telomeres is thought to be linked to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and an increased risk of premature death.
The team compared the BMI of 743 mothers (between the ages of 17 and 44 years) with the length of their offspring’s telomeres. The length of the telomeres was found by using umbilical cord blood, drawn immediately after birth.
The researchers discovered that for each whole BMI point increase above the health weight range, the babies’ telomeres were shorter by approximately 50 base pairs. They said this was equivalent to the length lost by adults after every 1.1 to 1.6 years of life.
Professor Tim Nawrot, one of the study authors, said: “Compared with newborns of mothers with a normal BMI, newborns of women with obesity are older on a molecular level, because shortened telomere lengths mean that their cells have shorter lifespans. So, maintaining a healthy BMI during a woman’s reproductive age may promote molecular longevity in the offspring.”
Dries Martens, a co-author, said: “We ruled out many other potential factors that may be associated with telomere length, including parents’ age at birth, socio-economic class, ethnicity, maternal smoking status, newborns’ gender or birth weight.”
Approximately one third of women in the UK are overweight or obese when they give birth, indicating a significant number of the population could be affected in the future.
The study was published in the journal BMC Medicine.

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