In addition to immediate implications for pregnancy complications, increasing evidence implicates maternal obesity as a major determinant of offspring health during childhood and later adult life. Observational studies provide evidence for effects of maternal obesity on her offspring's risks of obesity, coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and asthma. Maternal obesity could also lead to poorer cognitive performance and increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, including cerebral palsy. Preliminary evidence suggests potential implications for immune and infectious-disease-related outcomes. Insights from experimental studies support causal effects of maternal obesity on offspring outcomes, which are mediated at least partly through changes in epigenetic processes, such as alterations in DNA methylation, and perhaps through alterations in the gut microbiome. Although the offspring of obese women who lose weight before pregnancy have a reduced risk of obesity, few controlled intervention studies have been done in which maternal obesity is reversed and the consequences for offspring have been examined. Because the long-term effects of maternal obesity could have profound public health implications, there is an urgent need for studies on causality, underlying mechanisms, and effective interventions to reverse the epidemic of obesity in women of childbearing age and to mitigate consequences for offspring.
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