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Study: Both maternal and parental obesity linked to young children’s neurodevelopmental delays


Parental obe­si­ty linked to delays in child devel­op­ment, NIH study sug­gests (NIH press release):

Chil­dren of obese par­ents may be at risk for devel­op­men­tal delays, accord­ing to a study by researchers at the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health. The inves­ti­ga­tors found that chil­dren of obese moth­ers were more like­ly to fail tests of fine motor skill—the abil­i­ty to con­trol move­ment of small mus­cles, such as those in the fin­gers and hands. Chil­dren of obese fathers were more like­ly to fail mea­sures of social com­pe­tence, and those born to extreme­ly obese cou­ples also were more like­ly to fail tests of prob­lem solv­ing ability…Children in the study were test­ed at 4 months of age and retest­ed 6 more times through age 3. When they enrolled, moth­ers also pro­vid­ed infor­ma­tion on their health and weight—before and after pregnancy—and the weight of their part­ners.

Com­pared to chil­dren of nor­mal weight moth­ers, chil­dren of obese moth­ers were near­ly 70 per­cent more like­ly to have failed the test indi­ca­tor on fine motor skill by age 3. Chil­dren of obese fathers were 75 per­cent more like­ly to fail the test’s per­son­al-social domain—an indi­ca­tor of how well they were able to relate to and inter­act with oth­ers by age 3. Chil­dren with two obese par­ents were near­ly three times more like­ly to fail the test’s prob­lem solv­ing sec­tion by age 3…If the link between parental obe­si­ty and devel­op­men­tal delays is con­firmed, the authors wrote, physi­cians may need to take parental weight into account when screen­ing young chil­dren for delays and ear­ly inter­ven­tion­al ser­vices.”

Study: Parental Obe­si­ty and Ear­ly Child­hood Devel­op­ment (Pedi­atrics). From the Abstract:

  • BACKGROUND: Pre­vi­ous stud­ies iden­ti­fied asso­ci­a­tions between mater­nal obe­si­ty and child­hood neu­rode­vel­op­ment, but few exam­ined pater­nal obe­si­ty despite poten­tial­ly dis­tinct genetic/epigenetic effects relat­ed to devel­op­men­tal pro­gram­ming.
  • METHODS: Upstate KIDS (2008–2010) recruit­ed moth­ers from New York State (exclud­ing New York City) at ?4 months post­par­tum. Par­ents com­plet­ed the Ages and Stages Ques­tion­naire (ASQ) when their chil­dren were 4, 8, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months of age cor­rect­ed for ges­ta­tion. The ASQ is val­i­dat­ed to screen for delays in 5 devel­op­men­tal domains (ie, fine motor, gross motor, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, per­son­al-social func­tion­ing, and prob­lem-solv­ing abil­i­ty).
  • RESULTS: Com­pared with normal/underweight moth­ers (BMI <25), chil­dren of obese moth­ers (26% with BMI ?30) had increased odds of fail­ing the fine motor domain (aOR 1.67; con­fi­dence inter­val 1.12–2.47). The asso­ci­a­tion remained after addi­tion­al adjust­ment for pater­nal BMI (1.67; 1.11–2.52). Pater­nal obe­si­ty (29%) was asso­ci­at­ed with increased risk of fail­ing the per­son­al-social domain (1.75; 1.13–2.71), albeit atten­u­at­ed after adjust­ment for mater­nal obe­si­ty (aOR 1.71; 1.08–2.70). Chil­dren whose par­ents both had BMI ?35 were like­ly to addi­tion­al­ly fail the prob­lem-solv­ing domain (2.93; 1.09–7.85).
  • CONCLUSIONS: Find­ings sug­gest that mater­nal and pater­nal obe­si­ty are each asso­ci­at­ed with spe­cif­ic delays in ear­ly child­hood devel­op­ment, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of fam­i­ly infor­ma­tion when screen­ing child devel­op­ment.

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