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."
Scientists 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.