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Smoking while pregnant increases childhood obesity risk

Overweight mothers-to-be who smoke during pregnancy increase the risk of having overweight kids when older.

A high birth weight and rapid weight gain during the first year of life also heightens the risk of childhood obesity.

Research published in Archives of Disease in Childhood analysed the findings of 30 studies, involving 200,000 participants, which took place between 1990 and 2011.

Smoking during pregnancy alone boosted the risk of childhood obesity by 47.5%, with breastfeeding cutting the risk by 15%.

The evidence was more mixed when it came to determining the impact of the length of breastfeeding, household income and marital status at the time of the child's birth, and how many other pregnancies the mother had had.

Researchers also found no link between the mother's age, educational attainment, ethnicity or depressive symptoms and their child's weight at birth or in childhood.

“While there seem to be clear factors that increase the risk of childhood overweight, further research will be needed to explore the feasibility of using these in clinical practice to help healthcare professionals pick up infants at risk early on”, said the researchers.