Stress during pregnancy and breast feeding may be the cause of a genetic change in the baby that could result in an increased risk of obesity in later life.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School's Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, using mice in a new study, discovered that when pregnant mice were put under stress, their children grew faster compared to the children of non-stressed mice. After a couple of months, they developed abdominal fat and high blood sugar levels, a condition that indicates pre-diabetes. This development was caused by the genetic impact of stress hormones.
This development takes place because of changes in a brain neurotransmitter, neuropeptide Y, that actually increases appetite and brings about the formation and growth of fat cells. The more fat cells gained before adolescence, the higher the risk of developing obesity. Hence, researcher Dr. Ruijun Han says, "So intervention during pregnancy and childhood might be an efficient way to prevent adult obesity."
An interesting fact that researchers discovered was this change occurred only in female offspring, and they conclude that this may be because they need fatty tissue to produce children themselves.
Now, this study needs to involve human subjects to learn if stress produces the same effects in them.