The study: A study exploring the link between mothers who smoke during pregnancy and a higher risk of obesity in their children may have hit on the “why”: subtle changes in the brain may cause kids to eat more fat. The paper, published this week in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, looked at 378 teens age 13 to 19; about half of their mothers smoked an average of about 11 cigarettes a day, the others were non-smokers.
Kids whose mothers smoked while pregnant had higher body fat and ate more fat compared to kids whose mothers didn’t smoke. The kids of smokers also had a lower amygdala volume—that’s the part of the brain linked to reward. The researchers wrote that being exposed to cigarette smoke in utero may trigger subtle changes in the amygdala, resulting in a preference for fatty foods.
What we already know: Prenatal smoking has been associated in other studies with a higher risk of obesity in children. Scientists noticed that nicotine interfered with the body’s regulation of metabolism, appetite and fat stores, but the mechanism wasn’t known.
What this means for you: Rates of prenatal maternal smoking in the U.S. are at about 10 percent, so many women still aren’t convinced of the dangers smoking can do to them and their unborn children. Women who smoke and are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should talk to their doctors about quit programs tailored to mothers-to-be. According to the March of Dimes other potential consequences of smoking during pregnancy are a higher risk of an ectopic pregnancy, premature birth and low birth weight.
Why do you think some women won't give up cigarettes while pregnant? Let us know in the comments.
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Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal, and has gotten in a boxing ring. Email Jeannine | TakePart.com