Local study links teen obesity to mothers who smoked during pregnancy

Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are not only increasing the risk of their babies being born with a low birth weight, respiratory problems and getting sudden infant death syndrome, but their children also are more likely to become obese as teenagers, according to a joint study by Université de Montréal and McGill University.

The research, published yesterday in the journal Obesity, is the first to draw a link between pre-natal cigarette exposure and teenage abdominal obesity.

The study looked at 500 people between the ages of 12 and 18. Half had mothers who had smoked up to 11 cigarettes a day throughout their pregnancies. The other half was not exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb. There were no significant weight differences among the younger teenagers of either group.

The older teenagers who were born to smoking mothers, however, had 26 per cent more body fat and 33 per cent more fat in their abdomens than teenagers whose mothers didn’t smoke. The study also found that those who were exposed to cigarette smoke also weighed 300 grams less at birth and breastfed a shorter period of time than their peers.

One of the lead researchers, Zdenka Pausova, said although a causal link could not be established between smoking and birth weight or breastfeeding time, other studies involving animals have indicated nicotine may have an impact on brain functions that control eating impulses and energy metabolism. “We believe that maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy plays an important role in the fetal programming of obesity.”

By LINDA NGUYEN, Canwest News ServiceApril
The Montreal Gazette

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