Less sedentary lifestyle during pregnancy results in lower fat percentage in the babies of obese mothers

14 March 2019

A European study has shown that when obese women adopt a less sedentary lifestyle during pregnancy, their babies have a lower fat percentage at birth. DALI is the first study to effectively demonstrate that a change in lifestyle during pregnancy has an impact on the baby’s fat percentage.

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The message to simply adopt a less sedentary lifestyle appears to be more effective advice.




Excess weight and obesity are a major problem for society and for healthcare in Belgium. 12 to 14% of Belgian children are currently overweight and 3% is obese. Pregnant women who are obese often give birth to babies that are also obese. Moreover, there is a greater risk of these babies becoming overweight children and adults, with a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It is extremely important, therefore, that prevention of excess weight and obesity should start before the onset of pregnancy.

During the European DALI study a group of obese pregnant women in 9 European countries were given advice on physical activity, a healthy diet and/or a combination of both. The group was then compared to a control group of women who did not receive any specific advice. The fat content of 334 babies was then measured after birth. The results demonstrate that women who received advice on physical activity and a healthy diet put on less weight during their pregnancy. They more frequently engaged in physical activity, improved their dietary habits and spent less time sitting down. More importantly, their babies had a lower fat percentage at birth compared to the babies of women who did not receive any specific advice during pregnancy.

The study demonstrates that women can change their lifestyle during pregnancy and this can affect the fat percentage of their babies.
Prof. dr. Roland Devlieger - gynaecologist

Important advice

The DALI study investigated exactly which lifestyle aspects were related to a lower fat percentage in a baby. The determining factor was not the amount of physical activity or increase in weight, but the reduction in the time the women spent sitting down. The message to simply spend less time sitting down appears to be more effective advice than the recommendation to increase physical activity during pregnancy.

Prof. dr. Roland Devlieger, gynaecologist at UZ Leuven and co-author of the DALI study: “The study demonstrates that women can change their lifestyle during pregnancy and this can affect the fat percentage of their babies. It is important for care providers to be aware that when they give advice on activity and a healthy diet, it is particularly important to tell obese women to adopt a less sedentary lifestyle.”

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Last edit: 24 January 2020