Eating Badly During Pregnancy Increases Your Child’s Long Life Obesity Risk
Scientists have discovered that a mother’s nutrition during pregnancy can strongly influence her child’s risk of obesity many years later.
An international study, led by University of Southampton researchers and including teams from New Zealand and Singapore, has shown for the first time that during pregnancy, a mother’s diet can alter the function of her child’s DNA.
The process, called epigenetic change, can lead to her child tending to lay down more fat.
Importantly, the study shows that this effect acts independently of how fat or thin the mother is and of child’s weight at birth.
Keith Godfrey, Professor of Epidemiology and Human Development at the University of Southampton, who led the study, says:
“We have shown for the first time that susceptibility to obesity cannot simply be attributed to the combination of our genes and our lifestyle, but can be triggered by influences on a baby’s development in the womb, including what the mother ate. A mother’s nutrition while pregnant can cause important epigenetic changes that contribute to her offspring’s risk of obesity during childhood.”
Researchers measured epigenetic changes in nearly 300 children at birth and showed that these strongly predicted the degree of obesity at six or nine years of age.
What was surprising to the researchers was the size of the effect – children vary in how fat they are, but measurement of the epigenetic change at birth allowed the researchers to predict 25 per cent of this variation.
The epigenetic changes, which alter the function of our DNA without changing the actual DNA sequence inherited from the mother and father, can also influence how a person responds to lifestyle factors such as diet or exercise for many years to come.
“This study indicates that measures to prevent childhood obesity should be targeted on improving a mother’s nutrition and her baby’s development in the womb. These powerful new epigenetic measurements might prove useful in monitoring the health of the child,” adds Professor Godfrey.
“This study provides compelling evidence that epigenetic changes, at least in part, explain the link between a poor start to life and later disease risk” states Mark Hanson one of the research team.
“It strengthens the case for all women of reproductive age having greater access to nutritional, education and lifestyle support to improve the health of the next generation, and to reduce the risk of the conditions such as diabetes and heart disease which often follow obesity.”
“This study provides the most compelling evidence yet that just focusing on interventions in adult life will not reverse the epidemic of chronic diseases, not only in developed societies but in low socio-economic populations too” says Sir Peter Gluckman FRS research team member of the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland.
The study team are part of an international consortium involving the Universities of Southampton and Singapore, the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, the Liggins Institute of the University of Auckland, AgResearch New Zealand and the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton.
Professor Cyrus Cooper, who directs the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, says: “MRC population-based studies have shown that early life factors influence risk of disease many years later. Now we can begin to see the mechanisms by which this happens, opening up new avenues for medical research and interventions.”
Their findings have been published in the printed journal Diabetes.
Eating for two may not always be the way to go when you’re expecting – especially if you’re eating for two bad-food craving, nutrient deprived, sugar junkies.
This study shows us that we need to be mindful of what we are putting in our mouths especially when there is a bun in the oven.
By giving ourselves good nutrition we can actually change the expression of our own as well as our children’s genes. Supplementing, eating and even exercising in accordance with your genetic profile can really improve your health. We see these results with patients that take Emed’s Genetic Test and follow their personalised epigenetic treatment plan on a daily basis.
Even without knowing your genetic profile, you are still able to eat well during your pregnancy – influencing the risk of obesity in your child, and modifying the expression of their genes.
Learn about a blood sugar balancing, nutrient dense style of eating in Emed’s article on Health Promoting Nutrition.
What Else Can I Do?
Fill the gaps in your diet and get the specialised nutrition you just can’t get from your food – no matter how well you are eating.
Take a pregnancy multivitamin. Don’t take risks with your baby’s health or your own, it is so easy to become nutritionally deficient when you are growing a little person inside of you.
Quality and ability to absorb your supplement is just as important as taking one in the first place!
The Online Consultation is an appropriate way to have Emed assist you in managing your complaints and providing nutritional strategies for a better, healthier pregnancy.