A mother's diet while pregnant can influence whether or not babies grow up to be obese, new research has found.
The nutrition team at the Massey University Albany Campus recently hosted a conference to discuss how to prevent childhood obesity.
University of Auckland Professor Sir Peter Gluckman opened the symposium with a look at his research.
He found the role of nutrition during pregnancy and feeding practices during infancy have long-term consequences for children's health.
The role of nutrition even before conception has also been underestimated. Human nutrition lecturer Dr Pamela von Hurst, who organised the symposium, says pregnancy is not an excuse to eat junk food.
"You're feeding a new life so you want to give that life the best possible nutrition."
Senior lecturer Dr Rozanne Kruger, who also presented at the symposium, says pregnant women should focus on eating nutrient-dense rather than energy-dense foods.
"A steady weight gain during pregnancy, especially during the first three months, is important for the health of the baby, but mothers don't need to eat for two."
Lecturer Dr Cath Conlon says childhood obesity can have serious consequences.
Obese children face health risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as sleep apnoea and type-2 diabetes.
They can also be bullied and have psychological problems such as low self esteem and depression.
Dr Conlon says a key problem is that it is difficult for parents to recognise their child is overweight or obese.
"Parents often underestimate their child's weight and whether or not they are overweight."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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