CHICAGO – Women who have multiple children early in life are at increased risk for obesity early in adulthood, according to an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.
The findings, from pooled 2001-2010 NHANES data, suggest that young multiparous women are a critical target group for obesity reduction efforts, Dr. Michelle H. Moniz of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, reported in a poster at the annual meeting of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The 4,979 women included in the study were aged 20-50 years at the time they were surveyed, and had a body mass index between 16.5 and 70 kg/m2. They were not currently or recently pregnant.
After adjustment for race, ethnicity, income, and NHANES study wave, multiparous women aged 20-25 years were almost twice as likely as nulligravid women in that age group to be obese (odds ratio, 1.91). No significant differences were seen for other age groups or for primiparous vs. nulligravid women in any of the age groups, Dr. Moniz found.
Although limited by an inability to account for the effect of breast-feeding due to significant missing data and restriction on sample size, as well as by factors associated with its cross-sectional design – such as an inability to determine whether childbearing occurred before the onset of obesity – the study nevertheless highlights the importance of addressing the issue of obesity in young women, according to Dr. Moniz.
"Obesity affects more than a third of women in the United States and is a profound, persistent threat to health throughout the life course," she wrote, noting that studies have shown that once obesity is established, it is difficult to reverse.
Furthermore, childbearing increases the risk of obesity in women, and may be a particularly important risk factor in young mothers due to their increased risk of poverty, lower educational attainment, and endocrine parameters associated with physiologic growth during adolescence.
"Preventing unplanned pregnancies in adolescent and young adult women may be an important strategy to help reduce obesity prevalence and duration of exposure to obesity in women," Dr. Moniz concluded
Dr. Moniz reported having no relevant financial disclosures.