News on Health & Science

Obesity linked to moms’ early puberty

NEW DELHI: Children born to mothers who reached puberty before 11 years of age are five times more likely to be obese as adults.

In a first of its kind study, a team from the British Medical Research Council and University of Cambridge have found that children of women whose periods started early grew rapidly during infancy (0-2 years of age), but then became overweight and short.

An inherited growth pattern like this, researchers said, confers an increased risk of childhood and adult obesity. Girls born to such mothers have an added problem — they, too, are likely to start their periods before 11. This transgenerational link has emerged from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Alspac), announced in the PLoS Medicine Journal on Tuesday.

The researchers measured the growth and fat mass of 6,009 children from infancy to 9 years of age. They then looked for any associations between the mother’s age at menarche (start of menstruation), mother’s adult body size and the child’s growth and obesity risk.

The researchers found that in mothers, earlier menarche was associated with shorter adult height and increased weight and BMI. Children born of mothers with earlier menarche were taller and heavier in the first two years of life.

Reacting to the study, gynaecologist Dr Sharmila Lal said, ‘‘It is known that childhood obesity is making girls reach puberty as early as 9 years of age. However, what makes the Alspac study significant is that it shows how early menarche affects the next generation also. The study may also explain why some children have a rapid tempo of growth, reaching their adult height sooner.” According to lead researcher Dr Ken Ong from UKMRC, both factors — mothers reaching menarche earlier and maternal obesity — can now be used to indicate which infants might require closer early growth monitoring.

‘‘Understanding the genetic, epigenetic or behavioural factors that underlie this phenomenon will identify processes that regulate both the timing of puberty and the risk of childhood-onset obesity,’’ Dr Ong said.

Source:The Times Of India

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