Objective To examine the association between an overall maternal healthy lifestyle (characterized by a healthy body mass index, high quality diet, regular exercise, no smoking, and light to moderate alcohol intake) and the risk of developing obesity in offspring.
Design Prospective cohort studies of mother-child pairs.
Setting Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) and Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) in the United States.
Participants 24 289 GUTS participants aged 9-14 years at baseline who were free of obesity and born to 16 945 NHSII women.
Main outcome measure Obesity in childhood and adolescence, defined by age and sex specific cutoff points from the International Obesity Task Force. Risk of offspring obesity was evaluated by multivariable log-binomial regression models with generalized estimating equations and an exchangeable correlation structure.
Results 1282 (5.3%) offspring became obese during a median of five years of follow-up. Risk of incident obesity was lower among offspring whose mothers maintained a healthy body mass index of 18.5-24.9 (relative risk 0.44, 95% confidence interval 0.39 to 0.50), engaged in at least 150 min/week of moderate/vigorous physical activities (0.79, 0.69 to 0.91), did not smoke (0.69, 0.56 to 0.86), and consumed alcohol in moderation (1.0-14.9 g/day; 0.88, 0.79 to 0.99), compared with the rest. Maternal high quality diet (top 40% of the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 diet score) was not significantly associated with the risk of obesity in offspring (0.97, 0.83 to 1.12). When all healthy lifestyle factors were considered simultaneously, offspring of women who adhered to all five low risk lifestyle factors had a 75% lower risk of obesity than offspring of mothers who did not adhere to any low risk factor (0.25, 0.14 to 0.47). This association was similar across sex and age groups and persisted in subgroups of children with various risk profiles defined by factors such as pregnancy complications, birth weight, gestational age, and gestational weight gain. Children’s lifestyle did not significantly account for the association between maternal lifestyle and offspring obesity risk, but when both mothers and offspring adhered to a healthy lifestyle, the risk of developing obesity fell further (0.18, 0.09 to 0.37).
Conclusion 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. These findings highlight the potential benefits of implementing family or parental based multifactorial interventions to curb the risk of childhood obesity.
Reference: BMJ 2018;362:k2486