Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Low Birth Weight Is Linked to Obesity Later in Life

Infants with low birth weights are more likely to struggle with obesity problems later in life. Why? The findings from the research show that newborn babies are programmed to overeat at the level of stem cells before birth when the mother has deprived nutrition. Their work with laboratory animals found that newborns with low birth weight had fewer neurons in the area of the brain that controls food intake than those with a normal birth weight. The researchers noted that previous studies have shown that babies that have a low birth weight and then experience an accelerated "catch-up" growth are at increased risk for health problems later in life, such as obesity, heart disease, type 2diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. "This study demonstrates the importance of maternal nutrition and health in reducing obesity," said Dr. Mina Desai. “Obesity and its related diseases are the leading cause of death in our society, yet we have few effective strategies for prevention or treatment. These studies suggest maternal nutrition could play a critical role in preventing obesity and related disease." In addition to obesity, the findings of altered brain (neural stem cells) development suggest that fetal growth restriction may be associated with cognitive and/or behavioral alterations.
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks. About 12 percent of babies in the United States - or 1 in 8 - are born prematurely each year. In 2003, more than 490,000 babies in the U.S. were born prematurely. The shorter the term of pregnancy is, the greater the risks of complications. In the United States, more than 60% of adults are overweight and more than 20% are obese, and about 17% of children and teens aged 2 to 19 are obese, according to backg
round information in the news release. Numerous parental influences shape the eating habits of youth including; the choice of an infant feeding method, the foods they make available and accessible, the amount of time children are left unsupervised and their eating interactions with others in the social context. Several studies suggest that breastfeeding offers a small but consistent protective effect against obesity in children.
Appetite is regulated by a close interplay between the digestive tract, adipose tissue and the brain. Studies show that children who eat a school lunch instead of a packed lunch are more likely to be obese. The same goes for children who stay inside and watch hours of TV or play video games instead of being active outside. According to the findings, 15 percent of the middle-school students were obese, but nearly all, whether overweight or not, reported unhealthy habits. More than 30 percent had consumed regular soda the previous day, and less than half remembered eating two portions of fruits and vegetables within the past 24 hours. Only one-third of students said they exercised for 30 minutes for five days in the previous week. Looking at the long-term consequences, overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults, which increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese. Parents need to get more involved with their children so they can get them on right eating/exercising habits before it is too late.

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