Can exercise during pregnancy combat obesity in your baby? And could it help offset the so-called "fat gene"?

New Kiwi research is attempting to pin-point the effect that genes can have on obesity, and whether it can be influenced in a person before they are even born.

In a project with Gravida: National Centre for Growth and Development, Auckland University PhD student Mohanraj Krishnan has been working at the forefront of this research.

A key part of his research is investigating if exercise by mothers during pregnancy, and then during childhood, can offset the effects of having a genetic predisposition to obesity. "I'm looking at single changes in the DNA code that may increase risk of obesity," he said.


Mr Krishnan's study offered a unique opportunity to understand how the complex relationships between maternal factors, life in the womb and genes influence childhood obesity.

"Not a lot of studies have looked at [maternal] exercise during pregnancy, and our understanding is some moderate form of exercise may reduce obesity."

Mr Krishnan is drawing from the Auckland-led Scope study - a project that collected clinical and lifestyle information about hundreds of participants from early pregnancy - and his eventual findings will contribute to international research, while providing baseline data unique to New Zealand.

Since the Children of Scope study started in 2011, more than 700 mothers and their children have been recruited, and it's expected as many as 1400 will be ultimately recruited by the completion of the follow-up study at the end of next year.

By the numbers
3 New Zealand's ranking in OECD obesity rates
11% of 8- to 11-year-olds in New Zealand are considered obese
1400 mothers and children are expected to take part in the study