Study finds clue to link between maternal obesity and high blood pressure in children

13 October 2016        

Black and white sonogram of a baby in the womb

A study part-funded by us, has given us a new understanding of the cause of increased blood pressure in the children of women with diet-induced obesity. 

The researchers, from King's College London, found that exposing babies to high levels of a protein called leptin, in the womb, irreversibly activates receptors in the brain that regulate blood pressure. This activation could lead to a lifelong increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney disease.

The study was published in the journal PNAS.

Obesity during pregnancy

Our Associate Medical Director, Professor Metin Avkiran, said: 

"Obesity is an important risk factor for many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Thanks to BHF-funded research we already know that if a mother is obese during pregnancy, it can increase her child’s risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

"This early study, in mice, gives us a new understanding of the underlying cause of increased blood pressure and kidney disease risk seen in the children of women with diet-induced obesity. The research points to an important role for hormones called leptin and melanocortin during pregnancy and soon after birth.

"This research represents important progress in our understanding of some of the risks linked with obesity in pregnancy, and with further research these findings could lead to new approaches to prevention and treatment."

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