Scientists of the Cambridge University have been successful in establishing a link between a woman's diet during the 9-months of her pregnancy and the child's risk of developing diabetes later in life. Researchers have identified a gene Hnf4a which is affected by the pregnant woman's diet and causes type 2 diabetes. These genetic changes can be inherited and passed on to future generations.
Senior author on the paper and British Heart Foundation senior fellow from Cambridge's Institute of Metabolic Science, Dr. Susan Ozanne said, "What is most exciting about these findings is that we are now starting to really understand how nutrition during the first nine months of life spent in the womb shapes our long-term health by influencing how the cells in our body age. A healthy well-balanced diet is particularly important during pregnancy because of the impact on the baby long-term, and the potential impact on the grandchildren as well."
AdvertisementScientists say that rat studies have indicated that an imbalanced diet during pregnancy leads to silencing of a gene associated with insulin production. They cut down the protein intake from the recommended 20% to a meager 8% in the expecting rats and found that the rate of diabetes in their offspring was higher. Scientists also studied the DNA from insulin-secreting cells of human pancreas. They found that the expression of the Hnf4a gene in humans is controlled in the same manner as in rats.
This study in the emerging field of epigenetics is the first to show how a poor diet during pregnancy increases children's vulnerability to diabetes.