Obese mums don't necessarily beget obese babies suggests a new study that concludes, eating well during pregnancy reduces the risk of obesity in babies regardless of the mum's size.
According to the research, a team of US scientists showed that modifying fat intake during pregnancy to a moderate level is enough to benefit the child regardless of the mother's size.
Specifically, they found that a protein called "SIRT1" rewrites a developing foetus' histone code, which affects his or her "epigenetic likelihood" of being overweight or obese throughout his or her lifetime.
"We are finding that the cycle of obesity likely begins in the womb, however, we are also finding that obesity does not necessarily beget obesity," Kjersti M. Aagaard, M.D., Ph.D., study author from the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, said.
"A diet laden with fat changes the molecular machinery which chemically modifies the structure of the developing infant's genetic material. These commonly called 'histone code' changes are rewritten-at least in part-by SIRT1, which in turn, alters key regulators of fat and glucose metabolism in the infant. It is our hope that these early steps will in turn break the cycle of obesity in the generations to come," Aagaard.
To make this discovery, Aagaard and colleagues used three groups of pregnant primates.
The first group ate a healthy pregnancy diet (13 percent fat), while the second group ate a high fat diet (35 percent fat) and became obese.
The third group was kept on a high fat diet for several years, became obese, and then was put on a healthy diet.
Researchers were able to tease apart the effects on the infant of being exposed during pregnancy to a healthy diet versus an unhealthy high fat diet.
The sirtuins and the proteins, and the genes regulating glucose and fat metabolism were analyzed.
Results suggest that the livers of infants exposed to the high fat diet, showed less SIRT1 and less sirtuin activity than in the control group.
The study is published online in The FASEB Journal.