Could Mom's Smoking Cause Childhood Obesity?

More proof that pregnancy and puffing on cigarettes don't mix: According to researchers at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, smoking during pregnancy puts your child at risk for obesity. Children of mothers who smoked were twice as likely to be obese and 43 percent more likely to be overweight than children of mothers who didn't smoke. The study defined obese children as those having a body mass index in the 97th percentile or higher and overweight children as those having a body mass index in the 90s to 96th percentile (American Journal of Epidemiology, 2002, vol. 156, no. 954)

Lead researcher Rudiger von Kries, PhD, established the link between childhood obesity and smoking during pregnancy after analyzing data from 6,483 health questionnaires of German children aged 5 to 7 years. Von Kries also found that the more cigarettes women smoked while pregnant, the bigger her child later became. He speculates that nicotine may damage the fetus's developing brain, resulting in an appetite-control problem later in the child's life.

—Chelsea Vurciaga