An international study recently published in the journal, Diabetes, has revealed that dieting during pregnancy can alter the fetus’s DNA in the womb. This in turn can increase the child’s risk of developing obesity, diabetes and heart disease later in life. Specifically, the study indicated that the ingestion of low levels of carbohydrate changed bits of DNA. These alterations functioned as indicators in children who later become fatter.
Researchers, who hailed from Britain, New Zealand and Singapore, reached their conclusions by taking samples from the umbilical cord of nearly three hundred children and checking for “epigenetic markers.” These markers were found in children whose mothers went on diets while in the stages of early pregnancy that were low in carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch.
The embryo as it develops within the womb “feels” the environment that it will be born into from the actions of the mother and adjusts its DNA accordingly. Diets can create epigenetic change and result in an alteration of DNA. The end result can be a child tending to “lay down more fat.” These changes, which affect the function of the DNA, do not change the actual genetic sequence a child inherits from both parents, but they can be a prime indicator of future obesity.
This important study does offer much food for thought (no pun intended). Preparing babies for the world they are about to enter entails perhaps even more work than originally believed. Healthy, happy babies have to be our goal for all generations to come.