UNBORN babies in Scotland are being fed a “liquid diet of Mars Bars” one of the UK’s top consultants in fetal medicine warned today.
Timothy Overton spoke out as increases of up to 20% in the number of dangerously overweight babies born in Scotland in the past decade were revealed.
So-called “sumo” babies – newborns weighing more than 10lbs – are at increased risk of stillbirth, getting stuck during delivery, and having a lifetime of health complications, including heart disease and diabetes.
Scotland’s heaviest-known baby in the past five years is revealed by the figures to have been born in the NHS Lanarkshire area weighing 14lb 8oz – double the size of an average newborn.
According to Mr Overton, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, too many pregnant Scots devour sugary snacks, increasing their chances of developing diabetes and having an overweight child.
At least 6,466 babies weighing more than 10lbs were born to Scottish mothers in the past ten years, including 680 last year, according to figures from health boards released under Freedom of Information.
Scotland’s largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, has seen a 20% rise in “macrocosmic babies” in just ten years, with 287 born last last year.
NHS Lanarkshire recorded a 20% increase in just five years to 116 in 2012.
Mr Overton said overweight babies posed a “very serious problem” for NHS Scotland.
“We are heading towards an epidemic of babies growing up to have cardiovascular problems, strokes, hypertension; it’s a very real problem,” he said.
“There are babies born bigger because they are very well-nourished, but then you have fat babies, born big because their mother is a diabetic and her sugar has not been well-managed in pregnancy.
“I describe this as a baby being fed on a liquid diet of Mars Bars, and it is a very serious problem.”
Mr Overton added: “Mums are getting bigger, babies are getting bigger and overweight women have a higher chance of developing diabetes in pregnancy.”
Mr Overton, who is based in Bristol, said women should get fit and healthy before considering becoming pregnant.
He said: “A diet low in sugar, high in fresh fruit and vegetables, with the correct balance of carbohydrate and protein, is very important. Regular exercise in pregnancy also reduces the chance of having an overweight baby by as much as 20%.”
The clinician warned that overweight mums and babies were putting a real strain on the NHS.
“Twenty years ago, the hospital I work in had one diabetes clinic a week, now we have three or four. I am massively worried about the future. Having an overweight baby can have a lifetime of consequences.”
Gillian Smith, Director of the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland, confirmed overweight babies were putting a strain on services.
She said: “There is no doubt that it’s a big problem in Scotland and it’s an increasing problem because of the obesity epidemic we are facing in this country.
“We are seeing more pregnant women with both type 2 and pregnancy-induced diabetes.”
NHS Grampian delivered 1026 overweight babies in the past ten years, NHS Tayside 751, NHS Dumfries and Galloway, 262. Between them, Western Isles and Shetland recorded 79 fat babies.
Despite its size, NHS Lothian recorded 537 babies over 10lbs over the period.
In overweight babies were born in the past ten years, compared to 706 in Lanarkshire, 751 in Tayside and Grampian’s ten year total of 1026.
Western Isles and Shetland had 46 and 33 babies born over 10lbs each.
NHS Highland and NHS Scottish Borders refused the Freedom of Information request.