First-borns more prone to obesity - expert
Thu, 18 Oct 2012 5:19a.m.
By Cleo Fraser
Being the first born, premature or having a mother who has severe morning sickness increases your chances of becoming obese or having diabetes later in life, an expert says.
Auckland University professor of paediatric endocrinology Wayne Cutfield says there needs to be more emphasis on educating teenage girls about the risks to long term health of these "early life events" and unhealthy eating leading up to pregnancy.
"Events early in life are critically important," he said.
"There are several major misconceptions [about what affects our health] including that our health depends entirely on our genetic makeup and our lifestyle particularly in middle-age.
"Common genes account for less than 10 percent of common diseases. What that is telling us is that the environment is very important and it isn't just genes that cause disease."
Early life events which commonly lead to a greater risk of disease, particularly obesity-related diseases, include:
Prof Cutfield also says that what women eat and consume leading up to conception and in the early stages of pregnancy can affect the life-long health of their offspring.
A recent study of 250 New Zealand women undergoing IVF treatment found that leading up to pregnancy few women changed their alcohol, tobacco and coffee consumption and they ate unhealthy foods.
"I think in part there is this perception that pregnancy doesn't count until you have a positive pregnancy test. But in fact the impact of early life events begin with that last cycle before becoming pregnant," he said.
To reduce the chances of disease later in life, young women need to be informed about how a healthy lifestyle leading up to pregnancy can positively influence the future health of their offspring.
"We need to have a more effective education programme," Prof Cutfield said.
"If you look at the diets of the women who are undergoing IVF - this is a highly motivated and educated group - if they're eating inappropriately then what do we expect for the rest of our population?"
Overfeeding babies also amplifies the risk of obesity.
Prof Cutfield says GPs should be asking mothers about "early life events" when they analyse the health of a child and offer advice on changes they could make to their lifestyle to optimise the child's health.
Prof Cutfield is among experts speaking at the Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society's three-day conference in Auckland starting on Thursday.
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18/10/2012 12:03:28 p.m.
Another "expert", me, says stuffing your face with food leads to obesity. Did not take much research.
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