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Offspring of mothers stressed during pregnancy with a passive stress coping style more prone to Obesity

New animal research suggests greater risk for obesity and associated in individuals that respond to stress in a and were born to mothers that were stressed during their .

Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, shows that passively coping offspring of mothers stressed during their pregnancy were at risk to develop obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Previous research in rodents suggested that both prenatal stress exposure and style might predispose offspring to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. is typically seen in more introverted personality types whereas, proactive stress coping is typically seen in more extroverted personalities. The research team at exposed pregnant rats to different stressors during the third week of their pregnancy. The study found there was a difference in risk for diabetes and obesity in offspring from stressed mothers depending on the coping style of the offspring. Stressed dams’ offspring that had been characterized by a passive stress coping style, showed increased weight gain and developed impaired glucose tolerance, an early indicator of diabetes, whereas prenatally stressed offspring characterized by proactive stress coping did not.

Lead investigator Gretha Boersma says: “These results may imply that in our efforts to prevent obesity and its associated disorders we need to advise pregnant women to reduce stress exposure during their pregnancy. In addition, these data may lead to the identification of at-risk offspring by looking at their stress coping style and prenatal environment, and then tailoring a prevention strategy accordingly.”


Lead Author: Gretha J Boersma. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

Co-Authors: ZA Cordner, AA Moghadam, TH Moran, KL Tamashiro

Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior