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expert reaction to a mouse study looking at obesity in pregnancy and cardiovascular disease in offspring

A study published in The Journal of Physiology looks at maternal obesity in pregnancy and cardiovascular disease in offspring in mice.


Prof Tim Chico, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist, University of Sheffield, said:

“We know from human studies that unfortunately babies of obese mothers have higher risks of heart disease both in early and later life.  This study in mice suggests that the increased risk is caused at least in part directly by the obesity and diet of the mother, rather than inherited.

“This experimental work in mice studies a range of genetic and metabolic pathways to try to understand why obesity and an unhealthy diet in human mothers might have this effect on the baby, and finds interesting results in mice suggesting these are affected differently in male and female mouse fetuses.  However, a lot of further experimental work is needed to know if these findings can be used to try to prevent the negative effects in human babies.  These further studies would need to be done in animals as it is not possible to alter the genetics of a developing human.

“The results of this study are interesting, but we already know that obesity in pregnant women is bad for both mother and baby.  Unfortunately, it is hard to know what treatments would ever be able to protect the baby from the effects of maternal obesity other than preventing maternal obesity itself.  This is of course easier said than done.

“We must not use the results of this mouse study to shame overweight pregnant mothers, but to emphasise how important it is to meaningfully invest in public health measures tackling obesity in the entire population.”



‘Maternal obesity causes fetal cardiac hypertrophy and alters adult offspring myocardial metabolism in mice’ by Owen Vaughanby et al. was published in The Journal of Physiology at 01:00 UK time on Thursday 12th May 2022.



Declared interests

Prof Tim Chico: “No conflicts.”

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