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Mother’s Diet has Genetic Link to Children’s Obesity
- Updated: September 7, 2014
According to a new report published in the September 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal, epigenetic methylation blocks the expression of the Pomc gene. With this, it takes people longer to feel satisfied but also a greater desire to eat more.
Over the years, several studies have been conducted that show eating habits of a woman prior to and during pregnancy, as well as while breastfeeding, have a dramatic impact on her children and their risk of becoming overweight, even obese. However, the reason for this has remained a mystery until just recently.
According to new research using animals for testing, a distinct epigenetic link was found between a mother’s diet and risk of her children becoming overweight or obese. Expression of a gene called Pomc becomes blocked, which manages a specific area responsible for controlling feeding behavior. This reduces the feeling of being satisfied after eating but also prompts more eating, which in turn leads to excessive weight or obesity.
According to Dr. Asaf Marco, research with the Faculty of Life Sciences at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, the likelihood that a child will overeat and develop obesity is directly linked to the mother’s own obesity and diet. He goes on to say that the newest study shows the underlying mechanisms for this phenomenon is associated with epigenetic programming.
Marco along with his colleagues fed two groups of female rats, one group from the time of being weaned from their mothers and into adulthood, and the other through pregnancy and lactation. The rats were given either a diet consisting of high fat or standard food. All of the offspring from both groups were given a normal diet after being weaned and into adulthood.
At that time, blood was drawn and analyzed for brain sections for epigenetic modification and hormonal levels. Researchers found that the female rats on the high-fat diet became obese in connection with a disruption in the epigenetic mechanic responsible for controlling the Pomc gene but during lactation, these same rats had no significant change of weight and the epigenetic mechanism remained unchanged.
Researchers also found compromised programming of the epigenetic mechanism in the rats on the high-fat diet had a long-term effect on offspring’s risk of becoming obese, which continued through adulthood. With this study, a clear connection was identified between the epigenetic mechanism and weight gain. Because of this, researchers, scientists, and medical professionals may have the ability to detect risk of obesity earlier than before.
Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Editor in Chief of The FASEB Journal summarized the findings of this new study by saying that the discovery of changes in the epigenetic mechanism in relation to weight gain and obesity should prove beneficial for helping people in the future drop unwanted weight. With this research, experts are confident that excessive weight and obesity are in fact directly linked to the Pomc gene, which signal’s a person to stop eating when satisfied.