Kids born to moms who have lost a substantial amount of weight after undergoing bariatric surgery have fewer cardiovascular risk factors than their siblings who were born before the weight loss surgery.
This is because the metabolic changes and weight loss that occur after the surgery have a positive effect on inflammatory disease-related genes in the offspring, according to a new study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.
"Our research found that maternal obesity affects the genes of the offspring," says Dr. Frdric Gunard, a post-doctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr. Marie-Claude Vohl of the Functional Food Institute at Laval University and a recipient of a Heart and Stroke Foundation Research Fellowship.
"The good news is that we can do something to change this outcome: Reducing obesity in the mother has a positive health impact on the health of future offspring."
The study comes from the cutting-edge field of epigenetics, which looks at how our genes can be switched on and off by environmental changes. What's novel here is that the scientists looked at how these changes can impact the DNA of our offspring (without necessarily altering the DNA sequence).
Think of identical twins with the same DNA how can two individuals with the same DNA have different states of health? It was once thought that only DNA structure changes caused genetic variation. But we now know that genes can be turned on or off ("expressed"). A variety of processes is thought to "flick the switch."
One such process is that small molecules bind to DNA. These molecules are produced by one's own body and their binding to DNA is modulated by the environment (for example, from foods or from toxins in the environment).
Scientists now know that molecules called methyl groups can turn genes on and off a process called DNA m
|Contact: Jane-Diane Fraser|
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada