Why Skinny Mothers have Fat Babies.

It’s been said that you are what you eat.
Now a new study tells us that you are what your mother ate.

For years, scientists have been stumped by a phenomenon they observed during the Second World War: the babies born to underfed, malnourished mothers were more likely to grow up to be obese adults. There was an obvious explanation—it was only natural that after the war the mothers became overindulgent, spoiling their children to compensate for their wartime suffering. But the scientists postulated that something physiological was going on as well.

They suspected a certain metabolic occurrence. They already knew that a poor diet can trigger a metabolic survival mode that increases the body’s ability to store fat—very handy in times of famine; less so when food is abundant, and then the result is a propensity toward obesity with its constellation of weight-related health problems  They theorized that the babies’ metabolism had been impacted in the womb by their mothers’ diet, but had no idea of the body’s mechanism that would cause it to take place.

After decades of research with mother/child test subjects and advances in the study of genetics, the scientific community finally has an explanation. Details of the breakthrough appear in this month’s Journal of the American Diabetes Association.

The researchers concluded that the quality of an expectant mother’s diet can actually cause modifications in the baby’s DNA. These modifications won’t change the DNA sequence, but they will change how it functions. They are like volume knobs that attach themselves to DNA and can raise or lower the activity level of certain genes. In this case, researchers have located the tags on a particular gene—one that creates vitamin receptors that determine how fat is processed.

A diet that is very low in carbohydrates, particularly during the first trimester of a pregnancy, can be an obesity time bomb that wreaks habit throughout a child’s life. And we’re not talking about concentration camp levels of starvation. One of the popular low-carb diets like an Atkins- or Zone-type regimen is probably enough to trigger the effect.

The DNA modification can be identified in a newborn, but the impact won’t be immediately obvious. In controlled studies, birth weights were normal, but follow-up studies at ages 6 and 9 already revealed significant obesity in children with tagged DNA.

It’s a fascinating piece of research that carries a vital warning for parents-to-be. But perhaps more significantly, it has the potential to change the way we manage and redress the current runaway rates of obesity.

Read the full text of the study Epigenetic Gene Promoter Methylation at Birth Is Associated With Child’s Later Adiposity in the Journal of the American Diabetes Association.



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4 Responses to Why Skinny Mothers have Fat Babies.

  1. Janice says:

    I try to enjoy my food, choose wisely, and try not to think about the ways in which it can harm us,
    And btw, I was a math major for a time myself. And I also prefer food, but the numbers still matter.

  2. Gwenevere says:

    Sensitive dials. that is all I can think of. eat too much, poor health, eat too little, same problem, too much meat too many veggies, heat processed soy bad, lentil nut allergies…late onset diabetes…welcome to my world…oh wait it looks like you are already here.

    I was drawn to your blog by the name ( I think I was supposed to be a mathematician) oh well I cook instead.

  3. Janice says:

    If only… my babies are now 20 and 23.

  4. That pic of you and the baby is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!! Seriously.. 🙂

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