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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 08:17 GMT
Obesity link to birth defects
Obesity among women is increasing
Women who are obese before pregnancy are risking the health of themselves and their unborn child, according to a study.

Obese women can develop gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and need to be hospitalised during pregnancy.

Their babies can be born prematurely or suffer serious birth defects and other severe problems, says Dr Richard Deckelbaum, professor of nutrition at New York's Columbia University.

Weight before pregnancy matters much more than people realise

Dr Richard Deckelbaum
This has special significance for the UK, where obesity among women of childbearing age is continuing to rise.

Dr Deckelbaum said: "Weight before pregnancy matters much more than people realise, even health professionals."

He is particularly concerned about the health of babies born to obese women.

He said: "When these babies grow up, they are more likely to suffer from obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health problems.

"Obesity is particularly dangerous for women of childbearing age because it creates a life cycle of serious problems that can be passed from generation to generation."

Dr Deckelbaum urges women to prepare for their future children by eating "family friendly" or "baby friendly" portion sizes to reduce calorie intake and to limit second helpings of food.

He also advocates more physical exercise for women.

Obesity 'epidemic'

The International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) says this report reinforces their concerns over the growing problem of obesity.

It suggests England has been leading the world in the speed at which obesity has been growing.

The IOTF's director of policy Neville Rigby said: "A high proportion of young girls are becoming obese in the UK.

"They need to look at incorporating exercise and better eating and nutrition into their lifestyle, not just for themselves but of future generations."

Obesity has crept up from 7% of the UK population in 1980 to 21% in 2002.

In 1993, 11% of women in the prime childbearing age range o 25-34 were obese. By 2000, the rate had jumped to 16%.

Many more, although not obese, are overweight.

To remain within a healthy weight range, people should aim for a body mass index (BMI) of between 20 and 25.

Anyone with a BMI of 25-29 is pre-obese and a figure of 30 or more is defined as obese.

You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres or BMI = Kg / (m)2.

The US report is published by the March of Dimes Task Force on Nutrition and Optimal Human Development.

See also:

22 Mar 00 | Health
Obesity clue to cancer rise
15 Feb 01 | Health
Obesity rate triples
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