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article imageMother’s diet can influence obesity in her young

By Tim Sandle     Sep 8, 2014 in Science
Ramat Gan - By studying rats, researchers have unearthed an epigenetic link between a mother's diet and an offspring's risk of future obesity. This link relates to the blocked expression of a gene which goes onto trigger overeating.
The study’s findings suggest that a mother's eating habits prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy and during lactation affect her offspring and whether or not her children develop weight problems in later life.
With the research scientists fed female rats either a high-fat diet or a standard diet from post-weaning to adulthood, throughout pregnancy and lactation. All of the rats, including those of the high-fat treated rats, received standard food after weaning until adulthood. Blood was analyzed for hormone levels and brain sections for epigenetic modification on the specific DNA sequence of interest.
The data indicated that unmated female rats, fed a high-fat diet, tended to produce obese offspring. The research reveals that this occurs because of changes at the genetic level. Scientists found an epigenetic link between a mother's diet and an offspring's risk of future obesity. Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression caused by certain base pairs in DNA, or RNA, being "turned off" or "turned on" again, through chemical reactions.
Further examination revealed that this link relates to the blocked expression of a gene called Pomc. This gene controls a discrete area of the brain that controls feeding behaviour. It appears that excess methylation on the DNA sequence blocks the ability to express this gene. In turn, this leads to a late satiety response, increased food intake and eventually to the risk of obesity. Methylation denotes a type of chemical reaction; with DNA this process describes the switching of base pairs and thus a change to the genetic code.
The research was undertaken at the Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel. The findings have been published in The FASEB Journal. The research is headed “Overweight and CpG methylation of the Pomc promoter in offspring of high-fat-diet-fed dams are not "reprogrammed" by regular chow diet in rats”.
More about Mother, Obesity, Genes, Epigenetics
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