New Zealand scientists have helped establish a link between a mother's diet while pregnant and the probability that her child will be obese.
A study of 300 children has shown the food consumed during pregnancy can modify the baby's DNA through a process called epigenetic change.
This chemical process increases the likelihood of obesity at the ages of six and nine years.
Professor Sir Peter Gluckman of the Liggins Institute at Auckland University says it appears an unbalanced diet with particular carbohydrates can increase the risk of childhood obesity.
Sir Peter says the finding is important because childhood obesity is closely linked to diabetes and heart disease in later life.
The study was led by the University of Southampton and will be published in the journal Diabetes next week.
The university was assisted by the Liggins Institute and AgResearch.