Thin mother, obese child? A review of early risk factors for obesity in offspring

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Purpose of review

The huge percentages of persons with obesity in many countries constitute a public health crisis. The severe consequences of obesity for physical health and emotional wellbeing already emerge in childhood. Therefore, the acknowledgment of early risk factors is essential to provide recommendations for prevention strategies. This review outlines the current state of research concerning early risk factors for obesity, that is, factors that even contribute to later obesity of the offspring during gestation. In this regard, this review specifically addresses the link between restricted eating behavior of the mother and obesity in her offspring. We systematically searched for articles in PsychINFO, PsychINDEX, MEDLINE, PubMed, MEDPILOT, and Web of Science, and we identified additional studies in bibliographies.

Recent findings

Although some risk factors (e.g., short period of breastfeeding, gestational diabetes, and high maternal BMI) have a vast evidence base, others (e.g., restricted eating behavior and second-hand smoking) are insufficiently studied.


Physical activity and diet programs in pregnancy can reduce not only the occurrence of gestational diabetes, but also the risk of inappropriate weight gain. As smoking during pregnancy and inappropriate eating behavior are associated with lower education, psychoeducation, for instance in sex education classes, could be easily conceivable.

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