Healthy lifestyle counselling helps obese women deliver healthier babies: local study

A newly-overhauled Canada Food Guide highlights a modern approach to encouraging healthy eating in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Counselling on leading a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy can help obese women deliver healthier children, according to new local research.

The study, which examined obese mothers in nine European countries and more than 300 babies, revealed that healthy eating counselling and physical activity coaching reduced a mother’s likelihood of developing gestational diabetes, and reduced the amount of extra fat a baby was born with.

Scientifically referred to as “neonatal adiposity,” Lawson Health Research scientist Dr. David Hill says extra fat at birth means a baby is more likely to be obese during childhood and is more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as an adult.

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By conducting a randomized clinical trial and giving some obese women guidance on healthy lifestyle habits, researchers found women who received combined counselling gained less weight during pregnancy, increased their physical activity, improved their eating habits, and gave birth to babies with less fat.

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“There’s actually almost a 20 per cent reduction in the amount of fat that these babies are carrying at birth,” said Hill.

“It really reinforces a message that looking after yourself during pregnancy not only protects the health of the mother, it’s probably going to result in an easier birth experience and it’s going to have beneficial effects on the future health of the baby.”

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Physical activity didn’t have to be exhaustive to have a positive impact.

“Reducing [sitting] time was actually more important than the amount of active exercise time, so that implies that again, reducing sedentary time could be spending more time just walking around the house, less time sitting and watching a TV screen.”

Lawson Health Research Institute is the research division of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care in London. It’s researchers designed the database for this study, recently published in Diabetologia, while also archiving and supervising the use of research data.

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