Scientists in the Epigenetics Laboratory, have discovered that obesity and type 2 diabetes in pregnancy can program children to develop metabolic problems in life. The good news is, this legacy is not set in stone – if children of obese mothers are careful about what they eat, it can be overturned.
The study, carried out by leading researchers Associate Professor Cath Suter and Dr Jennifer Cropley (pictured below), is published in the June edition of the journal, Epigenetics.
Lead author on the study, Associate Professor Suter, says little has been understood until now about how being overweight in pregnancy impacts on the future health of children.
By using genetically identical mice as a model, the team investigated the effects of having a mother with obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The research team found that the offspring of obese and diabetic mothers were predisposed to developing metabolic disease, and that males were particularly affected. These offspring were heavier than the offspring of lean mothers – even as babies, and when weaned onto a Western-style ‘junk food’ diet, they developed the hallmarks of type 2 diabetes within a few weeks.
After two months, they had developed severe fatty liver disease. The offspring of lean mothers remained normal on the same Western diet.But the news isn’t all bad. The offspring of obese mothers, while heavier and fatter, could be protected from overt metabolic disease and fatty liver by sticking to a low-fat diet.
To read more about the research, click on the full media release here >>