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Does Childhood Obesity Begin in the Womb?

There have already been studies that say that obese pregnant women are more likely to have obese children, but we've never known exactly why—until now. A new study out of the Univeristy of Colorado will be presented to the American Diabetes Association and revealed that there may be a possible pre-programming towards obesity for babies while in utero.

Scientists analyzed the umbilical cord stem cells of babies born to both obese and non-obese mothers and stimulated the stem cells to grow muscle and fat cells. They discovered that the stem cells from obese mothers grew 30% more fat cells than the ones from non-obese moms. This led them to the conclusion that "while in the womb, the cells of children of obese mothers may be programmed to accumulate extra fat, or develop differences in metabolism that could lead to insulin resistance—a condition that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes."

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Kristin Boyle, an assistant professor at University of Colorado School of Medicine, recently told US News that "it's clear that there is an inherent propensity toward more fat content in the cells from offspring of obese moms, in [lab research]. We also know that the fat accumulation in these cells corresponded to the baby's fat mass at birth. The next step is to follow these offspring to see if there is a lasting change into adulthood."

While the findings are still considered preliminary until it's officially published in a peer-review journal, it does bring us one step closer to learning more about—and combating—childhood obesity, which remains a big problem in the U.S.

Image via Getty Images

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