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New research will investigate how pregnant women’s weight is associated with overweight among their children

Why do some people put on too much weight and others do not? There can be many reasons for this, and these will now be investigated further to establish whether overweight among pregnant women is passed on to their children.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation will initiate several research projects with grants totalling up to DKK 60 million to investigate this more thoroughly. If the research finds causal associations, this knowledge can be used to prevent children from becoming overweight in the future.

”We would like to know more about whether a mother’s overweight is passed on to their child by factors other than genetics. Some evidence indicates that the tendency to become overweight may be transferred hormonally from mother to child through the placenta. If this is the case, then very early intervention to minimize overweight makes sense – possibly even before a woman becomes pregnant,” says Arne Astrup, the Programme Director responsible for developing the Healthy Weight Center.

”Preventing children from becoming overweight is important, but we do not know enough about why some people add more weight whereas others do not? Treating people with overweight is very difficult, and the advice to simply consume fewer calories than you burn has not proven effective. We therefore now want to elucidate some of the very early risk factors so we can take preventive action sooner,” explains Arne Astrup.

He emphasizes that the projects will be carried out with respect for the people and their families being studied and without stigmatization.

”We believe that all children have the right to a healthy weight and to maintain it throughout life. We therefore do not focus on achieving a specific body mass index but on physical, mental and social health and well-being,” says Arne Astrup.

Specifically, the Novo Nordisk Foundation will seek applications for projects that investigate the causal nature of:

  1. Mothers with overweight or obesity before conception and the effect for the children’s body weight status and risk of developing subsequent overweight.
  2. Mothers with excessive gestational weight gain (including the role of the pregnant women’s diet, physical activity, mental health, stress etc.) on the child’s body weight status, and risk of subsequent overweight.

Expressions of interest may be submitted from 13 January 2021. The Foundation will award grants totalling up to DKK 60 million, and each grant will be between DKK 4 million and DKK 20 million.

The projects must be based at a university, hospital, health centre or medical practice in Denmark. Read more here.

About the Healthy Weight Center
The Novo Nordisk Foundation has the ambition of launching prevention initiatives to help to reduce the number of children and adolescents with overweight. The Foundation is developing the Healthy Weight Center to support this goal. The research projects based on the themes above are among the first initiatives.

Further information

Christian Mostrup, Senior Programme Lead, +45 3067 4805, [email protected]