Junk food may harm moms-to-be`s grandchildren

Last Updated: Apr 21, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: Moms-to-be who scoff junk food
may not only be harming their unborn child, but could also be
putting their future grandchildren at risk of breast cancer,
a new study has claimed.

Researchers have carried out the study and found that
mothers can pass the legacy of an unhealthy diet onto their
daughters and granddaughters, raising their odds of breast
cancer, the `Daily Mail` reported.

For their study, the researchers fed some pregnant
rats normally and gave others the same amount of calories
but in a much fattier form. They then looked at breast cancer
rates in the animal`s daughter and granddaughters, both of
which were fed normally.

Despite this second and third generation not
gorging on fatty food, they were up to 60 per cent more likely
to develop breast tumours than other rodents.

The researchers, from Georgetown Lombardi
Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, then tried to work
out how something that happened in pregnancy can go on to
affect the health for generations to come.

They showed that it wasn`t due to the junk food diet
raising levels of oestrogen, a hormone that fuels the growth
of breast tumours.

Instead, they believe it can be explained by a process
called epigenetics, in which conditions in womb cause subtle
changes to the way genes work. These changes, different to
mutations, can be passed down the line from mom to daughter,
or from father to son, time and time again.

In this case, the tiny changes may increase the number
of potentially cancerous "buds" in the breast.

Lead researcher Dr Sonia de Assis said: "That is our
theory but we don`t really know how it is happening just yet."

Despite this, she believes there is a clear message
for human health. "The implications from this study are that
pregnant mothers need to eat a well-balanced diet because they
may be affecting the future health of their daughters and

The findings have been presented at the American
Association for Cancer Research`s annual conference recently.