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article imageGeneration game – how obesity could be passed on

By Tim Sandle     Sep 6, 2016 in Science
Is obesity inherited? The potential for grandchildren to become obese based on the physiology of their grandparents may exist, at least based on research conducted on mice.
Obesity represents a major health risk in modern human society. Causative factors include an inadequate diet rich in saturated fats and sugars and a low rate of exercise. In addition to these obvious factors there is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests some people are more prone to develop obesity than others, when lifestyle factors are equal.
One area being investigated is an individual’s microbiome. Here microbial-responsive signaling by host cells appears to affect metabolic, neurological, inflammatory, immunologic and host defense functions. Specifically, some types of gut bacteria have been associated with obesity and diabetes.
New research throws something else into the mix: if someone’s parents and grandparents eat too much unhealthy food do the grandchildren face a higher risk of weight gain compared to someone else whose parents and grandparents eat healthier?
This is the outcome of a new mouse study. It is based on the premise that some genes can result in someone having a greater chance of developing obesity (if they engage in unhealthy practices).
For the study, according to Science News, researchers bred a group of obese male mice and paired them with lean females. They also bred a control groups (lean males and lean females; and obese males and obese females).
It was found that when male mice, offspring from an obese father, were given ‘unhealthy’ food these mice developed higher-than-normal levels of blood sugar. The mice also had an excess of the hormone insulin in their blood. These are conditions found in people who are obese or who have metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a health condition made up of three of the following six problems: obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high levels of bad fats alongside low good cholesterol, extra blood components that cause inflammation and extra blood components that lead to clots.
However, female mice born to obese fathers were not affected; and, unsurprisingly, male mice that had a lean father also showed no problems.
These outcomes suggest a genetic link. What is needed for a genetic link to manifest is an external influence like diet (this relates to the field of epigenetics where the external environment switches genes on or off).
Importantly, the results of the mouse study have not been confirmed in people. Nonetheless, the results are interesting enough for further investigation.
The findings are published in the journal Molecular Metabolism. The paper is headed “Male-lineage transmission of an acquired metabolic phenotype induced by grand-paternal obesity.”
More about obesity inherited, Obesity, inherited, Weight
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