Small Mother, Small Infant?
When an infant is very small, has low weight or does not gain in stature, the doctor often looks at the mother. If she is rather small, this is thought to be the cause of the child’s own small size, i.e. a genetic reason. Together with other information (eg.studies of Waterlow on food supplementation in preschool children ), a study by Thame and colleagues in Jamaica throws further doubts on the assumption of “small mother-infant”. This is an important point because an assumption of genetic link overlooks the more obvious explanation – the child is small because he/she is not eating enough calories, or proteins (in the case of small stature). Furthemore, the mother is small because she herself did not eat enough of these when she was a child. Several previous studies have shown that when preschool children are given supplementary diets, their final height is much more than that of their mother or father. In their study, Thame et al. also show that the more the mother is small, thin and chronically malnourished, the smaller the infant will be at birth. The authors also point to the evidence of a high risk of hypertension and even diabetes during adulthood, when the child was born with malnutrition in utero (or small for gestational age). This has been called a “programming” effect on the body.
Reference: Thame,ML, Wilks, Rj, McFarlane/Anderson, N, Bennett, F.I.,Forrester T.E. Relationship between maternal nutritional status and infant’s weight and body proportions at birth. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.1997 March. Vol. 51. 134-138