Saturday 5 August 2017

Pre-pregnancy weight and risk of offspring ADHD

"Compared to normal weight mothers, the risk of having a child with ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] was significantly increased if the mother was overweight..., obese... or severely obese."

So said the findings reported by Andersen and colleagues [1] examining data from some 80,000 mother and child pairs "participating in the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC)." The name of the research game was to look-see whether maternal weight before pregnancy might be an important factor when it comes to offspring developmental and behavioural outcomes specifically with ADHD and/or autism in mind.

The results showing a possible relationship between maternal pre-pregnancy weight and ADHD were to some extent mirrored in relation to offspring autism albeit not showing the 'dose trend' of hazard ratios - overweight, obese, severely obese - noted in relation  to ADHD. Indeed authors noted that: "Regarding ASD [autism spectrum disorder], an increased risk was observed in underweight... and obese... mothers" illustrating a less confident pattern of possible association.

This is not the first time that this topic has been discussed on this blog (see here). One still has to be a little careful with such 'observational' research so as not to assume that only pre-pregnancy maternal weight is a risk factor for offspring ADHD or anything else. I'm also minded to suggest that the continued use of the body mass index (BMI) statistic is not without difficulties. That and the fact that we're also no further forward when it comes to talking about possible mechanisms behind any association given the myriad of effects that excess weight can potentially cause to mother and any children to be (see here).

What we can however take from this and other independent data [2] is that the physical health of mothers (and fathers) might be quite important to offspring even when the prospect of children is still a twinkle in the eyes of parents. We're all constantly being told to eat well, exercise regularly and cut out or cut back on certain things to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. This and other research if true, suggest that heeding such advice might have inter-generational implications too, for lots of different reasons [3]...

Music to close, and sorry Your Majesty, but some of my brood find the alternative 'God Save the Queen' much more entertaining than the original...


[1] Andersen CH. et al. Maternal body mass index before pregnancy as a risk factor for ADHD and autism in children. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017 Jul 15.

[2] Van Lieshout RJ. et al. Pre-pregnancy and pregnancy obesity and neurodevelopmental outcomes in offspring: a systematic review. Obes Rev. 2011 May;12(5):e548-59.

[3] Jensen ET. et al. The Relationship of Maternal Prepregnancy Body Mass Index and Pregnancy Weight Gain to Neurocognitive Function at Age 10 Years among Children Born Extremely Preterm. J Pediatrics. 2017. March 21.


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