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Parents look at a chubby little newborn baby and fall in love with chubby wrists and chunky thighs. Researchers look at that same baby and see trouble: According to a recent study from Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, fat babies at birth are becoming far more common than they were 15 year ago.
Researchers studied the data of over 74,000 births, paying special attention to each baby's "ponderal index". Similar to a BMI, the ponderal index measures a baby's body mass, and a higher number can indicate a higher level of fat. They noted that in the last 15 years, the BMI of pregnant mothers has been steadily rising and that the average ponderal index has made a significant climb, too. As mothers get fatter, so do babies.
Experts are beginning to believe that this sets the stage for obesity before baby takes that first bite. "Adult diseases like obesity may have their foundation during the fetal period, so efforts to safeguard the health of the fetus could translate to future adult health for these newborns," Felix Okah, MD, MS, professor of pediatrics and director, Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship Program, Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics said in a statement. In fact, another recent study found a link (in rats) between a grandmother's high-fat diet and her granddaughter's cancer risk.
That's a lot of pressure for moms-to-be! No matter where your BMI sits when you conceive your baby, the best thing you can do for both of you is stick to a healthy diet (approved by your doctor, of course) of lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.