A Review of the Impact of Maternal Obesity on the Cognitive Function and Mental Health of the Offspring

Int J Mol Sci. 2017 May 19;18(5):1093. doi: 10.3390/ijms18051093.


Globally, more than 20% of women of reproductive age are currently estimated to be obese. Children born to obese mothers are at higher risk of developing obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and asthma in adulthood. Increasing clinical and experimental evidence suggests that maternal obesity also affects the health and function of the offspring brain across the lifespan. This review summarizes the current findings from human and animal studies that detail the impact of maternal obesity on aspects of learning, memory, motivation, affective disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders, and neurodegeneration in the offspring. Epigenetic mechanisms that may contribute to this mother-child interaction are also discussed.

Keywords: cognitive function; epigenetics; high fat diet; maternal obesity; mental health; offspring brain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / etiology
  • Cognition
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Mood Disorders / etiology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / etiology*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology*