Mother’s obesity a factor in birth defect rates
OBESITY is becoming more common in women of childbearing age, and it could dramatically affect the health of their children. Excess weight has already been linked to chronic diseases and infertility, but new research in the ArchivesofPediatricand AdolescentMedicine now shows a link between a woman’s weight prior to pregnancy and the risk of birth defects in her child. Researchers interviewed 10,249 American women whose babies were born with birth defects between 1997 and 2002. The women were contacted between six weeks and two years after the baby’s birth and asked their height and weight before pregnancy, along with other demographic and medical information. They were compared to 4065 women who had babies without birth defects during the same time period. For many types of birth defects, including spina bifida, heart, limb and genital defects, mothers were between 1.3 and 2.1-fold more likely to have been obese prior to pregnancy than mothers of healthy infants. ArchPediatrAdolescMed 2007;161:745-750 (Waller DK, et al) CANCER survivors who eat a diet high in meat, fat, refined grains and desserts are at increased risk of cancer recurrence and death compared to patients with a diet high in fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish, concludes a study in the JournaloftheAmericanMedical Association this week. The study involved 1009 colon cancer patients who were receiving chemotherapy following surgery. They completed a diet survey during and six months after the chemotherapy. Over the next five years, 324 patients had cancer recurrence, 223 patients died with cancer recurrence, and 28 died with no evidence of cancer recurrence. Compared to those with a healthier eating pattern, those eating a so- called ‘‘ Western’’ diet — high in meat, fat and sugar — had more than three times the risk of cancer recurrence or death. JAMA 2007;298:754-764 (Meyerhardt JA, et al) SMOKERS have a higher risk of developing an eye disease that is a leading cause of blindness, according to new research in the ArchivesofOphthalmology . Doctor Jennifer Tan and colleagues from the University of Sydney and Westmead Hospital studied 2454 Australians aged 49 and older. At the start and at five-year and 10-year follow-up visits, participants were asked about their smoking behaviours, and their eyes were examined and photographed. Compared to those who had never smoked, current smokers were four times more likely to develop an advanced form of the eye disease known as ‘‘ agerelated macular degeneration’’ (AMD). This can lead to loss of central vision, reducing ability to see fine details, read and recognise faces. Past smokers were three times more likely to develop advanced AMDthan absolute non-smokers. ArchOphthalmol 2007;125:1089-1095 (Tan JSL, et al) EXERCISING for just 30 minutes a day, three days a week, is enough to lower blood pressure and improve health and fitness — less than current exercise recommendations — claim the authors of a new study in the JournalofEpidemiologyandCommunity Health . For good health, the current recommendation for adults is 30 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise on at least five days of the week. Researchers recruited 106 healthy but inactive adults aged between 40 and 61. They were randomly assigned to either a walking program (30 minutes of brisk walking on five days of the week or three days of the week) or a control group (no change in lifestyle) for 12 weeks. Blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, hip and waist circumference, and overall fitness were measured at the start and finish of the study. There were no changes in any of the measures among the non-walkers. Both groups of walkers showed similar significant drops in blood pressure and waist and hip circumference, and increased overall fitness. JEpidemiolCommunityHealth 2007;61:778-783 (Tully MA, et al) CHILDREN whose mothers are depressed are less likely to develop behavioural problems such as aggression, hyperactivity, depression and anxiety if their fathers are actively involved in family life, claims a study in the ArchivesofPediatricandAdolescent Medicine. The study involved 6552 mother/ child pairs who were interviewed every two years between 1992 and 2002. Overall, 23.4 per cent of women in the study reported suffering from depression. Researchers asked children aged 10 and older how often their father talked over important decisions with them, whether he listened to their side of an argument, whether he knew where they were when not at home, whether he missed events or activities that were important to them, and how close they felt to him. In households with a depressed mother, the greater the father’s positive influence, the less likely children were to have behavioural problems. ArchPediatrAdolescMed 2007;161:697-703 (Chang JJ, et al) MOST Australian women of childbearing age eat foods fortified with folate, finds a new study in the journal PublicHealthNutrition , showing that mandatory fortification of wheat flour (recently approved in Australia and New Zealand) has great potential to reach most women and further reduce the incidence of neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. Led by doctor Wendy Oddy from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, researchers surveyed 578 recently pregnant women in Western Australia between September 1997 and March 2000. Overall, 89 per cent of women had heard, seen or read information about the link between folate and spina bifida, and 78 per cent consumed folate-fortified foods. The folate-fortified foods most often consumed by women were cereals (69 per cent), breads (34 per cent) and milk (15 per cent). PublicHealthNutrition doi:10.1017/S1368980007796295 (Oddy WH, et al) Want to know more? Items are referenced where possible. A reference such as ‘‘ 2007;35:18-25’’ means the source article was published on pages 18-25 in volume number 35 of the publication, in 2007. A doi number or website address is used for research published on a journal’s website.
Children: Happier if Dad’s involved