Research and Breakthroughs

Sugary Beverage and Added Sugar Consumption During the Postpartum Period Leads to Greater Weight Gain and Risk of Obesity

Weight gain is a necessary part of any healthy pregnancy. But failure to lose this weight after the baby is born, or gaining additional weight after delivery, can be detrimental to a woman’s health. Obesity rates in the United States continue to rise, and women who do not lose their pregnancy weight are particularly vulnerable to further weight gain and future obesity. To date, there are few studies aimed at understanding just how a woman’s diet contributes to changes in weight gain following pregnancy. 

Michael I Goran, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Program Director for Diabetes and Obesity at CHLA, studies how nutrition—in particular, dietary sugars—affects body weight. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Goran and his colleagues show that sugar intake during the first 6 months postpartum is associated with weight gain. 

“This study is a first,” says Dr. Goran, the study’s senior author. “It provides the first data to show that women who consume a high amount of sugars during the postpartum period gain more weight—even one sugary beverage a day, whether soda or juice, led to weight gain.” Interestingly, fiber had the opposite effect. “Women who consumed more soluble fiber were protected against the effects of sugar,” he says. 

“These findings suggest that maternal diet, especially added sugar and fiber, should be considered when developing obesity preventive strategies during the postpartum period, which is a sensitive period for women’s health,” said Tanya L Alderete, PhD, first author of the study and an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

The study followed over 100 women who gave nutritional information at one- and six-month time points after giving birth. The participants were originally enrolled in the Southern California Mother’s Milk Study.  

Findings like these provide a better understanding about how diet affects future health of the mother and of future babies. “Greater weight gain after childbirth increases risk for maternal obesity,” says Dr. Goran. “In turn, maternal obesity increases the risk for infant obesity in future pregnancies.” 

The Mother’s Milk Study is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Gerber Foundation.