High-Fat Diet During Pregnancy Affects Child’s Brain, Behavior, Body Composition

However, the study showed a strong sexually dimorphic effect. There were 160 boys in the cohort, and those born to obese mothers had greater body adiposity (total and regional) and lower percentage of fat free mass throughout the first 6 years life (P=.001). The study included 168 girls, and there no differences found among the maternal BMI groups (P=.2350).  

Study researcher Aline Andres, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, said these data are consistent with numerous experimental studies demonstrating that maternal programming has a stronger effect in male offspring.

Andres, who presented the study findings at the meeting, said boys born to obese women have on average 4% to 5% higher body fat from ages 2 to 6 years as compared with boys born to lean or overweight mothers. She said this is the first study to identify this sexual dimorphism of body composition in a long-term clinical study.

Kelly Allison, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and a spokeswoman for the Obesity Society, said this study is very important.  She said it provides further incentive for childbearing women to eat a varied and nutritious diet.

“We need to try to minimize the risk of disease later in life and this study points to a way of doing that. It really provides some good guidance,” said Allison in an interview with Endocrinology Advisor. “It is information clinicians can use. Pregnant women get a lot of information about what they should and should not do. Now, we can say this information is out there and lowering fat can be a good starting point.”


  1. Cordner Z et al. Abstract T-3055-OR.
  2. Andres A et al. Abstract T-2323-P. Both Presented at: Obesity Week 2014; Nov. 2-7, 2014; Boston.