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Parent's weight-loss surgery affects children

September 1, 2009 | 11:06 am

Obese A woman who has weight-loss surgery before becoming pregnant may help break the cycle of obesity in her family, researchers say. A study published today in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that children of obese mothers who had weight-loss surgery before pregnancy have a lower risk of obesity and improved heart health compared with their siblings who were born before the mother had surgery.

The study confirms previous research that shows a woman's weight and her tendency to develop diabetes and heart disease can influence the development of her fetus, predisposing the child to the same metabolic problems. The study is further evidence that obese young women who are planning to have children some day should try to lose weight, through weight-loss surgery or behavioral changes.

"Our study confirms previous research showing that the interuterine environment may be more important than genes and the post-natal environment when it comes to the association between maternal obesity and childhood obesity," said the lead author of the paper, Dr. John Kral, of the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, in a news release. "Any medical or surgical treatment to reduce obesity and existing metabolic disorders before pregnancy can be an investment in the life of future offspring."

The researchers studied 49 women who had undergone weight-loss surgery and their 111 children, who were between ages 2 and 25. All of the women had children before and after their surgery. The study showed that the children born after their mother's surgery had reduced birth weight and waist circumference and were three times less likely to become severely obese compared with siblings born before the surgery. These children also had improved cardiovascular markers, such as reduced insulin resistance and lower cholesterol.

"For those women interested in both surgical treatment and having children, we believe surgery should come first," Kral said. "Preventing obesity and treating it effectively in young women could prevent further transmission to future generations."

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Tim Sloan / AFT / Getty Images