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Fetal programming of overweight through the microbiome: boys are disproportionately affected

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 June 2015

A. L. Kozyrskyj*
Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
R. Kalu
Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
P. T. Koleva
Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
S. L. Bridgman
Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
*Address for correspondence: Dr A. Kozyrskyj, Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, 3-527 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405 – 87th Avenue, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G IC9. (Email


Maternal and childhood obesity in pregnancy are worrisome public health issues facing our world today. New gene sequencing methods have advanced our knowledge of the disruptive effect of birth interventions and postnatal exposures on the maturation of gut microbiota and immunity during infancy. Yet, little is known about the impact of maternal pregnancy overweight on gut microbes and related processes, and how this may affect overweight risk in offspring. To address this gap in knowledge, we surveyed human studies for evidence in children, infants and pregnant women to piece together the limited literature and generate hypotheses for future investigation. From this literature, we learned that higher Lactobacillus yet lower Bacteroides spp. colonization of gut microbiota within 3 months of birth predicted risk for infant and child overweight. The abundance of bifidobacteria and staphylococci also appeared to play a role in the association with overweight, as did infant fecal immunoglobulin A levels, glycoproteins of the gut immune system that are acquired from breast milk and produced by the infant. We proposed that pregnancy overweight influences the compositional structure of gut microbiota in infants through vertical transfer of microbiota and/or their metabolites during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. Finally, we brought forward emerging evidence on sex dimorphism, as well as ethnic and geographic variation, in reported associations between maternal overweight-induced gut microbiota dysbiosis and overweight risk.

© Cambridge University Press and the International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease 2015 

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