Diet during pregnancy affects child’s risk of obesity

Most of us know that what we eat and drink, what supplements we take and what substances we avoid during pregnancy go a long way in ensuring the health of our baby. Now, researchers have discovered that a mother’s nutrition during pregnancy can significantly influence her child’s risk of obesity many years later.

The international study, led by University of Southampton researchers and including teams from New Zealand and Singapore, shows that during pregnancy, a mother’s diet can alter the function of her child’s DNA. The process, called epigenetic change, can lead to her child tending to lay down more fat. This effect is independent of how fat or thin the mother is and of child’s weight at birth.

“We have shown for the first time that susceptibility to obesity cannot simply be attributed to the combination of our genes and our lifestyle, but can be triggered by influences on a baby’s development in the womb, including what the mother ate,” says Keith Godfrey, leader of the study and Professor of Epidemiology and Human Development at the University of Southampton. “This study indicates that measures to prevent childhood obesity should be targeted on improving a mother’s nutrition and her baby’s development in the womb.”

Mark Hanson, British Heart Foundation Professor and Director of the University of Southampton’s Human Development and Health Unit and one of the research team explains, “This study provides compelling evidence that epigenetic changes, at least in part, explain the link between a poor start to life and later disease risk. It strengthens the case for all women of reproductive age having greater access to nutritional, education and lifestyle support to improve the health of the next generation, and to reduce the risk of the conditions such as diabetes and heart disease which often follow obesity.”

Their findings will be published next week (April 26th, 2011) in the printed journal Diabetes.

If you are pregnant and would like more more guidance in diet and nutrition during pregnancy, talk to your licensed naturopathic doctor or qualified nutritionist. Give your child the best start to life by ensuring a healthy diet now! 

SOURCE: University of Southampton

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