Washington: Twins and babies of mothers who diet around the time of conception and in early pregnancy, may be more vulnerable to obesity and type 2 diabetes throughout their lives, a new study has revealed.
This study provides exciting insights into how behaviour can lead to epigenetic changes in offspring related to obesity and disease.
“This study may provide a new understanding of why twins can develop diabetes,” said Anne White, Ph.D., study author from the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester in Manchester, UK.
“It also suggests that dieting around the time a baby is conceived may increase the chance of the child becoming obese later in life.”
To make this discovery, White and colleagues conducted experiments involving sheep to investigate twin pregnancies and the effects of altering nutrition around the time of conception and early pregnancy.
Specifically, scientists examined the brain tissue of foetal sheep before birth and found that there were changes in the genes that control food intake and glucose levels that may lead to obesity and diabetes.
These findings are unique because the differences found in the genes are not inherited changes in the DNA sequence, but rather, epigenetic changes with alterations in the structure of the DNA and its associated proteins, histones, which affects the way that genes can behave in later life.
“This study shows that expecting mothers have to walk a really fine line when it comes to diet and nutrition,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the journal.
“It also shows that epigenetics is the ‘new genetics’: both our DNA and the histones in which it is wrapped are susceptible to binge eating and dieting—we are what our mothers ate,” Weissmann added.
The study has been published online in the FASEB Journal.