Impact of parental over- and underweight on the health of offspring

Fertil Steril. 2019 Jun;111(6):1054-1064. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2019.02.128. Epub 2019 Apr 26.


Parental excess weight and especially pregestational maternal obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy have been related to an increased risk of metabolic (obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome) and nonmetabolic (cancer, osteoporosis, asthma, neurologic alterations) diseases in the offspring, probably mediated by epigenetic mechanisms of fetal programming. Maternal underweight is less common in developed societies, but the discrepancy between a poor nutritional environment in utero and a normal or excessive postnatal food supply with rapid growth catch-up appears to be the main candidate mechanism of the development of chronic diseases during the offspring's adulthood. The role of the postnatal environment in both scenarios (parental overweight or underweight) also seems to influence the offspring's health. Lifestyle interventions before and during pregnancy in both parents, but especially in the mother, as well as in children after birth, are advisable to counteract the many undesirable chronic conditions described.

Keywords: Parental overweight; fetal programming; obesity; offspring; underweight.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Adolescent Development
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Development
  • Child Health*
  • Child of Impaired Parents*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Gestational Weight Gain
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Health*
  • Overweight / complications*
  • Overweight / diagnosis
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Thinness / complications*
  • Thinness / diagnosis
  • Thinness / physiopathology