Smoking during pregnancy reduces the child’s protection against heart disease, a study has found.
Babies experience changes in the womb that result in them having lower levels of “good” cholesterol if their mothers smoke while carrying them.
The “good” cholesterol, known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL), offers protection against damage to arteries, and heart disease.
An opposite effect is caused by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) - the “bad” cholesterol.
Researchers discovered that blood levels of HDL were reduced by around 0.15 millimoles per litre (mmol/L) in eight-year-old children whose mothers smoked.
They believe that the fall is enough to cause a significant effect, leading to the risk of heart disease increasing by 10%-15%.
Scientists collected data before the children were born and as they grew up, including information about mothers’ smoking habits before and after pregnancy.
They discovered that mothers’ smoking had an effect which remained significant after adjusting for a range of factors that might have influenced the results.
These included exposure to tobacco smoke after birth, duration of breastfeeding, sedentary lifestyle and body weight.
- Ayer JG, et al. Maternal cigarette smoking is associated with reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in healthy 8-year-old children. European Heart Journal 2011; Advance online publication