Washington: A new study has shown a link between a baby's weight at the time of birth and the risk of diseases in the longer run.
The research says that the differences in DNA methylation patterns and long-term variation in gene activity established in the womb underpins the link, and suggests that being overweight might be better in the long term than being underweight.
Claire R. Quilter, the study's author University of Cambridge, UK said that the findings support the hypothesis, and if confirmed they could be important markers of optimal fetal growth and may be the first step along a path to very early disease prevention in the womb.
The scientists looked at DNA derived from the cord blood of newborn babies from mothers with raised glucose levels during late pregnancy and in those babies born following relatively slow growth in the womb that later caught up after birth.
Researchers looked for differences in DNA methylation patterns (chemical modifications of DNA known to effect changes in gene activity). Results showed differences in these methylation changes which were specific to boys and girls and to each of the two groups.
However, changes were also identified that were common to both groups of babies. Similar overlapping signals were seen in two other groups of babies studied.
The study is published in The FASEB Journal.