Poor diet in pregnancy can cause child obesity

The diets of pregnant women may have an important role in determining whether their children will be obese later in life, a new study suggests.

The study by New Zealand and British scientists indicates that children born to mothers who ate badly during pregnancy may be more likely to put on weight later in life. Scientists at the University of Auckland's Liggins centre say the way the foetus adapts to the environment in the womb can determine how it reacts to food later in life.

If the womb is low in nutrients, the foetus may predict food supplies will be low later in life and set its metabolism to store and conserve fat, the researchers led by Professor Peter Gluckman said in a statement Tuesday. The study says if this early prediction proves false and food - particularly food high in fat - is readily available, the child may be programmed for adult obesity and conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.