A mother's diet during the first weeks of her pregnancy could alter her unborn child's DNA leading to later obesity and other related problems, according to scientists in New Zealand.
The research led by Professor Sir Peter Gluckman looked at the epigenetic change that changes the function of the child's DNA. "What we now know is the biology by which one becomes obese and one goes onto have the complications associated with obesity starts before you are born," he reported.
The researchers studied 300 umbilical cords from newborn babies, and they analyzed the degree of chemical change in the DNA. They could predict whether a baby would go on to become obese later on in life.
†Mothers with early pregnancy diets low in carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch, had children with these changes, the epigenetic markers. †
Then, it was seen that there was a strong link between those same markers and a child's obesity at ages six and nine.
According to the research, fathers also played a contributory factor in the alteration in the child's DNA impacting how the baby develops its control of blood sugar and fat deposition later on.
The study will continue for a at least two more years as researchers study the foods that are the most harmful for unborn babies. Meanwhile researchers urge expectant mothers is to eat a balanced diet that includes legumes, pulses, things like lentils and chick peas, and fruits and root vegetables like kumara and potatoes.
Sir Peter states,"What that means is the efforts in public health have to shift in a different way, so rather than focus on diet and exercise after you're born, one needs to focus on healthy living before you're born."
Meanwhile, New Zealand that has an increasing problem in obesity as it claims nearly 3000 lives a year, has the Labour leader Phil Goff remark "New Zealand must be about one of the only countries in the world that puts taxes on healthy foods in that way...That's what we're proposing with taking the 15% GST off fresh fruit and vegetables, which is great for family budgets but also great for producing a healthier country.