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Researchers examined data from more than 88,000 mother-child pairs in China. The mothers' blood pressure was checked in each trimester of pregnancy. The children were then weighed when they were between the ages of 4 and 7.
Compared to children whose mothers had lower blood pressure during pregnancy, children of mothers with high blood pressure during the second trimester were 49 percent more likely to be overweight or obese. The risk of childhood obesity was 14 percent higher among children whose mothers had high blood pressure during the third trimester.
"Our study is the first to demonstrate that among pregnant women, elevated blood pressure is associated with a greater risk of overweight and obesity for their children," said study first author Ju-Sheng Zheng, of Qingdao University in China and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
And, Zheng added, "The risk still existed for children of women who didn't have hypertension, but whose blood pressure during pregnancy was at the high end of the normal range."
However, the study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The findings were published Sept. 27 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
"The results indicate that all pregnant women and their doctors should monitor and try to limit a substantial increase in blood pressure in mid-to-late pregnancy. This may help reduce the likelihood of their children being affected by obesity," Zheng said in a journal news release.
-- Robert Preidt
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