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Obesity Can Add 20 Years, Affect Birth Outcomes

separator A recent study has shown that being obese causes the same kinds of health problems that typically develop over a 20-year period. It can cause more long-term health problems than smoking.

According to the study, people who are obese spend 36 percent more on healthcare and 77 percent more on medications than non-obese, non-smoking people. Smokers spend 21 percent more on healthcare and 30 percent more on medications.

Obesity causes problems in pregnancy as well. A new report by the March of Dimes Task Force on Nutrition and Optimal Human Development says that a woman's excess weight before pregnancy contributes to the premature birth of more than 450,000 babies annually. Obese women are more at risk of developing gestational diabetes (which happens only during pregnancy) and high blood pressure and to need hospitalization before their projected due date.

Babies of overweight mothers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop such birth defects as heart malformations, abdominal wall defects, intestinal abnormalities and neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Interestingly, folic acid supplements, which are known to reduce the risk of spina bifida, seem to be less effective for women who are overweight.

Health Affairs, March/April 2002; The March of Dimes Task Force on Nutrition and Optimal Human Development
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