UPBEAT-TEMPO: the effect of diet and lifestyle changes during pregnancy on the weight of children at 3 years old

Professor Lucilla Poston, Dr Dharmintra Pasupathy, Mr Paul Seed, Dr Annette Briley, Dr Nashita Patel, Ms Claire Singh, Ms Angela Flynn, Mr Alex Ignatian, Clinical Research Network Midwives and research associates, the UPBEAT consortium

Researchers are looking at the children of women who took part in the original UPBEAT trial to see if diet and lifestyle changes during pregnancy have an effect on their weight as they grow up.

Start date: 2014

End date: 2019

We think that the nutrition a baby receives while in its mother’s womb can affect its health and weight after birth. The UPBEAT study included over 1,500 obese pregnant women, making it the largest ever clinical study in this population.

Low GI diet = less body fat in children

In this study, we found that the babies of mothers who switched to a low glycaemic index (GI) diet – where sugar is released more slowly into the blood – and who did more physical activity during pregnancy had less body fat at 6 months old than the babies of mothers who made no positive changes to their lifestyle.

Does the effect continue at age 3

Now, as part of a large, multinational EU study called EarlyNutrition, we are meeting again with the families who took part in the UPBEAT study to see if the positive diet and lifestyle changes the mothers made during pregnancy have affected the weight of their children at 3 years old.

This follow-up study is called UPBEAT-TEMPO, and 516 women and their children have taken part. We are currently working through all the information that we collected to see if there are links between the changes made during the UPBEAT study and childhood obesity.

Maternal diet and childhood obesity

We are particularly interested in whether maternal diet and weight gain in the womb are related to childhood obesity. We are also looking at samples of blood taken from the mother and from the umbilical cord to see whether there are any specific molecules that could be used to predict whether a child will become obese.

Moving forward, we want to explore whether the children of mothers who made positive diet and lifestyle changes during pregnancy have less body fat at 3 years old, compared with those whose mothers did not make these changes.

Finally, we also want to see if it is possible for children to be genetically “programmed” to be obese. To do this, we are looking at the DNA present in umbilical cord blood at birth, as well as DNA samples taken from the children at 3 years old.

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This study takes place in a Tommy's centre and is funded by Tommy's, EU EarlyNutrition, the Medical Research Council, and the National Institute for Health Research's Clinical Research Network

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