An adult's propensity to pack on the pounds is directly linked to early childhood diet, according to a new study by University of Calgary.
"My research has shown that the food we eat changes how active certain genes in our body are - what we call genetic expression. In particular we believe that our diet has a direct influence on the genes that control how our bodies store and use nutrients," co-author Dr. Raylene Reimer said.
"There's a growing body of work that indicates a relationship between our health as adults and our early diet, and even our mother's diet. This research shows for the first time that our early childhood diet may have a huge impact on our health as adults," Reimer added.
For the study, the researchers compared three groups of rats.
At a very young age the rats were weaned onto three separate diets. One group was fed a high protein diet; one group was fed a high fibre diet and a third group was fed a control diet.
When the rats became adults, they were switched to a high fat, high sugar diet, which reflects the reality of the typical western diet.
The researchers found that the group of rats who were reared on the high protein diet as packed on much more weight and body fat than the rats who had 'grown up' eating the high-fibre diet, who put on the least amount of weight and body fat.
"I believe this study clearly shows that the composition of early childhood diet may have a direct lifelong impact on genes that control metabolism and obesity risk," said Reimer.
"This study clearly indicates that diet composition alone can change the trajectory of circulating satiety hormones and metabolic pathways that influence how we gain weight or control blood sugar as adults," Reimer added.
The study is published in the current Journal of Physiology.