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Network Matters
News and Information for the
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Network

August 2017

Institute Study: Sugary Beverages During Pregnancy Could Contribute to Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a severe issue in the United States, and one that can lead to a myriad of lifelong health issues. A recent study, led by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and published in the August 2017 issue of Pediatrics, reported an association between mothers who drank more sugary beverages during their second trimester of pregnancy and their children’s excess weight by mid-childhood.
“We found that mothers who consumed more sugary beverages in mid-pregnancy had children with higher amounts of body fat, no matter what the child’s intake was,” said corresponding author Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, MPH, Senior Statistical Analyst at the Institute. “Avoiding high intake of sugary beverages during pregnancy could be one of several ways to prevent childhood obesity.”

The study, “Beverage Intake during Pregnancy and Childhood Adiposity,” looked at 1,078 mother-child pairs in a pre-birth cohort study in eastern Massachusetts. Researchers measured the mothers’ intake of sugary and non-sugary beverages during their first and second trimesters of pregnancy between 1999 and 2002. In-person study visits were conducted with participating mothers and children during the first few days after delivery and in infancy (median age 6.3 months), early childhood (median age of 3.2 years), and mid-childhood (median age of 7.7 years).

Among 8-year-old boys and girls of average height, their weights were approximately 0.25 kg higher for each additional serving per day of sugary beverages their mothers consumed while pregnant. According to the study, maternal intake of the sugary beverages — rather than the child’s intake — was more strongly related to the child’s susceptibility to gaining excess weight. This lends credence to the hypothesis that the observed effects are due to the prenatal programming of susceptibility to obesity.

The study concluded that prevention strategies at the earliest stages of human development, including before birth, hold promise for prevention of obesity and chronic diseases across the course of a person’s life.

For more information, refer to the full report from Pediatrics.

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