Why do we need this research?
The nutrition a baby receives while in its mother’s womb may affect its health and weight after birth. We need to know more about how obesity during pregnancy can affect a child’s long-term health, and if it possible to counteract these effects.
The UPBEAT study
The UPBEAT study involved over 1,500 obese pregnant women, making it the largest ever clinical study in this group of people. In this study, mothers were advised how to switch to a low glycaemic index (GI) diet – where sugar is released more slowly into the blood – and get more physical activity during pregnancy. Our researchers found that babies born to mothers who made these lifestyle changes had less body fat at six months old than the babies of mothers who made no positive changes to their lifestyle.
What’s happening with this project?
Now, as part of a large, multinational EU study called EarlyNutrition, our researchers are meeting again with the families who took part in the UPBEAT study. They want to see if the lifestyle changes the mothers made during pregnancy have affected the weight of their children at three years’ old. This follow-up study is called UPBEAT-TEMPO, and more than 500 women and their children have taken part.
Our researchers are particularly interested in whether maternal diet and weight gain in the womb are linked to childhood obesity. However, so far, the researchers have found that the lifestyle changes made during UPBEAT don’t appear to have had any effect on childhood obesity, but they have had a positive effect on the resting heart rate for the children. This suggests that, for mothers with obesity, improving diet and physical activity during pregnancy could lead to better heart health in their children.
Finally, our researchers also want to see if it is possible for children to be genetically ‘programmed’ to be obese while in the womb. They think that the way which obesity during pregnancy can affect the health of children in later life might be down to chemical changes to the baby’s DNA. To do this, the team are looking at the DNA present in umbilical cord blood at birth, as well as DNA samples taken from the children at three years’ old.
What difference will this project make?
This project is part of ongoing work to understand whether lifestyle changes a mother makes during pregnancy can have a benefit for their child’s health in the long-term. The results from this study and others like it could lead to new recommendations for obese pregnant women, helping to ensure they and their children can lead healthy lives.
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Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. We can keep you updated on our research news. If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.
More research projects
A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.
Although recruitment to some clinical trials had to be paused when coronavirus hit the UK, scientists at Tommy’s Research Centres across the UK are still hard at work, supporting women and families in our specialist clinics and sharing their latest studies with academic journals.
The day before Mother’s Day, and two days before the UK officially went into coronavirus lockdown, Zara Dawson found out she was having a miscarriage. Her third consecutive miscarriage in less than a year, and fourth consecutive loss, after losing her second son Jesse in 2018 to termination for medical reasons.