Obesity during pregnancy has a number of detrimental effects. Not only does it negatively affect the mother by increasing the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infections, sleep apnea, and even infertility in the first place, but it also has harmful effects on the baby, including problems with labor and the increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes later in life.

In a new study presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), using an animal model, researchers found that maternal obesity triggers changes in the gut microbial composition and gut function in offspring.

Offspring born to obese mothers had an increase in the Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio that is a known characteristic of obese humans, an interesting finding considering that this trait, which is passed down from mother to offspring, is not genetic. With about 30 percent of pregnant women obese, the health of many children is at risk.

“Modulation of microflora composition is fairly easy and non-invasive, and may be of benefit for these children,” noted Claire de la Serre, PhD, lead researcher.

This is not the only study to link alterations of gut microbes and obesity. A couple years ago Dr. Smith blogged about the connection between Cesarean delivery and obesity, and how alterations in gut microbes might be to blame. I also talk about this link in my new book, The Skinny Gut Diet.