Weight gain after a blood and marrow transplant

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Learn how to prevent and manage your child's weight gain, after a transplant.

Key points

  • To prevent weight gain, encourage your child to eat healthy, exercise, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Long-term survivors of BMT are at risk for developing high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, hyperlipidemia, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Children who have a BMT are at risk of becoming obese due to steroids used for treatment and a lack of physical activity.

Some children who have undergone an allogenic transplant may gain weight. This is particularly true for those who have taken the steroid, prednisone. Children are at most risk of gaining weight during their treatment and up to one year after finishing it.

To prevent your child from gaining too much weight, encourage them to adopt healthy eating habits and remain physically active. Developing these habits early on in treatment is important, since weight gain can lead to obesity. This is a serious medical condition. It happens when a person accumulates so much body fat that it causes serious health problems.

Long-term survivors of BMT are at risk of developing:

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood sugar levels; this is because their treatment makes it difficult for their bodies to break down sugar in the blood
  • increased amount of fats in the blood (hyperlipidemia)

Alongside obesity, having any of these problems can increase the chances of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These problems increase with age, which is why making healthy lifestyle choices early on is essential.

Why are kids who have a BMT at risk of becoming obese?


If your child develops the immune complication called graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), they will take a steroid called prednisone. This medicine is sometimes given before your child’s transplant to minimize the chances of developing GVHD.

Prednisone can also increase your child’s appetite. As a result, your child may feel hungrier than usual, and eat more. Making sure your child eats healthy, nutritious food during treatment will minimize the likelihood that they will become overweight later on. Talk to your child’s doctor or nutritionist in the hospital to find out how you can help your child maintain a healthy body weight.

Please see Feeding and nutrition for more information.

Lack of physical activity

During treatment, parents often make the mistake of completely restricting physical activity. While there are some physical activities that need to be restricted and may not be safe for your child, being physically inactive is unhealthy. After treatment, kids may also adopt an inactive lifestyle, such as watching too much television, playing computer and video games and making unhealthy food choices. Because your child takes steroids (and possibly radiation), it is that much more important that they do some exercise when they can, both during and after treatment. Not only will this minimize their risk of becoming overweight, but it is a good lifestyle practice that is important for general health and wellbeing.

Your child’s doctor or hospital physiotherapist can help you to choose activities that are safe, fun, and healthy for your child.

Last updated: March 19th 2010