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Childhood obesity may start in the womb

January 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Can childhood obesity be traced to the womb? One scientist believes the problem in children may start with the mother. The research suggests women with gestational diabetes are more likely to have children with obesity problems.Seven-year-old Samantha Hayden and her younger sister can thank their mom for their slim physiques. Excited about her first pregnancy, Vanessa Hayden intended to pamper herself.

"Eating Oreo cookies, bonbons," said Samantha. "You know, my feet up."

But at 16 weeks, Vanessa was diagnosed with gestational diabetes -- her body became resistant to insulin. So instead of bonbons, she followed a rigorous regimen of diet, exercise and insulin.

"So take your blood sugar, eat. Wait two hours, take your blood sugar, eat. Wait two hours -- and that is what I had to do," said Vanessa.

Vanessa also struggled with high blood sugar -- that extra sugar was overfeeding baby Samantha. But the action she took returned her first child's metabolism to normal.

Endocrinologist Teresa Hillier studied more than 9,000 mother-child pairs. When a mother is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, her baby is more at risk to be larger, have low blood sugar, low levels of calcium and magnesium and have respiratory problems.

Hiller worked on treatments to help both mother and child.

"We can reverse the risk of their child becoming overweight or obese," said Dr. Hillier.

Hillier looked at children between the ages of five and seven.

"If children become overweight or obese at ages five-to-seven, they're much more likely to remain overweight as an adult."

This mom knows she did everything she could to protect her baby and herself from getting diabetes in the future.

A child whose mother has gestational diabetes is also more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes as an adult. Doctors say lifelong healthy eating habits and regular exercise can go a long way in preventing it.


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