Less time on the couch reduces fatness in babies of obese women

​Overweight and obesity are enormous problems for society and health care. In Denmark, 10-12 of children before school age are overweight or obese. However, having too much fat starts before birth, in the womb. 

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Obese pregnant women often give birth to babies with too much fat, and these babies are more likely to be fat as children and adolescents, increasing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, prevention of overweight and obesity starts during or before pregnancy! 

In the DALI Lifestyle Study, obese mothers from 9 European countries received advice on physical activity, healthy eating, or a combination of the two. These groups were compared to a control group of women who received no advice. The fatness (skinfold thickness) of 334 babies was measured at birth. We found that when women received counseling on both physical activity and healthy eating with the ‘full DALI intervention’, they managed to gain less weight, increase their physical activity, improve their eating habits and  reduced the time spent sitting. But most importantly, their babies had less fat at birth compared to babies from women who did not receive lifestyle advice. This is the first study showing that a change in the lifestyle of the mother in pregnancy can influence the fatness of their babies. 

We had a closer look at which facet of lifestyle was related to the reduction in fatness of the babies. This was not the amount of physical activity or weight gain, but reducing the amount of time they spent simply sitting. 

So the good news is that the DALI study shows that women can change their behavior during pregnancy and this can reduce the fatness of their babies. As part of recommendations on healthy eating and physical activity, obese pregnant women can be advised to reduce the time they spend sitting. This might be an easier message to adopt for the women than increasing physical activity in pregnancy.

The two Danish Centres participating in the DALI study were: Center for Pregnant Women with Diabetes, Rigshospitalet and Odense University Hospital.

For more information, contact Professor Peter Damm and Professor Elisbaeth Mathiesen via Communication and Press at Rigshospitalet.

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