Children whose mums stay healthy while they grow up are “substantially” less likely to be obese, research suggests.
The offspring of mothers who maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, do not smoke and drink moderately have a lower risk of developing obesity, a study published in journal the BMJ found.
When both mother and child stick to a healthy lifestyle this risk falls even further, the researchers said.
The study examined the medical history and lifestyles of more than 24,000 children aged nine to 14, born to almost 17,000 women in the US.
Researchers assessed the link between overall maternal health – characterised by a healthy BMI, high quality diet, regular exercise, no smoking and light to moderate alcohol intake – and the chances of their offspring being obese.
Children of mothers who met all five of these criteria had a 75% lower risk of developing obesity than those whose mothers did not meet any, they found.
When both children and mothers followed a healthy lifestyle, there was a 82% reduced risk of their offspring being obese.
The risk of obesity was 56% lower in children of women with a healthy body weight than those in other BMI categories.
Meanwhile, the offspring of non-smoking mothers had a 31% lower risk of obesity compared to those with smoking mothers.
These associations were seen when taking into account factors including age, ethnicity, disease history, household income and education.
Research has shown the lifestyle choices of children are influenced by their mothers.
However it was not previously known if healthy lifestyle patterns in mothers during their offspring’s childhood and adolescence could influence the development of obesity, the researchers said.
They wrote: “Our study indicates that adherence to a healthy lifestyle in mothers during their offspring’s childhood and adolescence is associated with a substantially reduced risk of obesity in the children.”
The findings highlight “the potential benefits” of family and parent interventions “to curb the risk of childhood obesity”, they added.
The study was led by researchers from Harvard University.