If a mother had high LDL ("bad") cholesterol prior to a pregnancy, her children are almost five times as likely to also have high LDL cholesterol as adults, reveals new research.
Study author Dr. Michael Mendelson, a clinical and research fellow at Boston Children's Hospital, said that maternal health and exposures in the womb may be important in modifying cardiovascular disease risks for their offspring.
The study analyzed clinical and laboratory data gathered from the three generations of participants in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS). This ongoing study goes back to 1948 and led the way to identifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
For this study, the sample included adult offspring of the first and second generation subjects and drew on the maternal examinations prior to the participants' birth.
"What we found was that maternal cholesterol before pregnancy was associated with important cardiovascular disease risk factors among adult offspring. The association was stronger for high cholesterol in mothers before pregnancy as compared to those with high cholesterol after pregnancy," Mendelson said.
Mendelson said that the risk of developing high cholesterol is not fully explained by known genetic and lifestyle factors.
Influences which may play a role in turning genes on or off- such as exposure to high cholesterol in the womb- may have a lasting effect in regulating cholesterol levels, even decades later.
The study was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.