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Experimental Diabetes Research
Volume 2011, Article ID 585749, 10 pages
Review Article

Maternal Obesity and the Early Origins of Childhood Obesity: Weighing Up the Benefits and Costs of Maternal Weight Loss in the Periconceptional Period for the Offspring

Sansom Institute for Health Research, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia

Received 28 June 2011; Revised 21 August 2011; Accepted 23 August 2011

Academic Editor: Christine Maric-Bilkan

Copyright © 2011 Song Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


There is a need to understand the separate or interdependent contributions of maternal prepregnancy BMI, gestational weight gain, glycaemic control, and macronutrient intake on the metabolic outcomes for the offspring. Experimental studies highlight that there may be separate influences of maternal obesity during the periconceptional period and late gestation on the adiposity of the offspring. While a period of dietary restriction in obese mothers may ablate the programming of obesity, it is associated with an activation of the stress axis in the offspring. Thus, maternal obesity may result in epigenetic changes which predict the need for efficient fat storage in postnatal life, while maternal weight loss may lead to epigenetic changes which predict later adversity. Thus, development of dietary interventions for obese mothers during the periconceptional period requires a greater evidence base which allows the effective weighing up of the metabolic benefits and costs for the offspring.