Diet and lifestyle during pregnancy linked to modifications in infants' DNA

November 06, 2020

A new study has shown pregnant women with obesity could reduce the health risks for their infants through improved diet and more physical activity.

Research published today in the journal PLosMed investigates the impact of high glucose in mothers with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and changes to infants DNA.

GDM is becoming more frequent around the world alongside a rise in obesity and can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth as well as increasing the risk of metabolic disease in the child in later life. High levels of glucose in mothers with GDM have been suggested to trigger epigenetic changes in the developing fetus (chemical modifications to the genetic blueprint of the fetus that function of genes activity) resulting in adverse health outcomes for the child.

Researchers from the University of Southampton and King's College London studied data from over 550 pregnant women with obesity and their children, from the UK Pregnancies Better Eating and Activity Trial (UPBEAT). The trial aims to improve the diet and physical activity of obese pregnant women across the UK. Compared to women in a control group, who made no changes to their lifestyle during pregnancy, women who were supported in changing their diet to lower glycemic index foods that are broken down less quickly by the body, a reduced fat intake and increasing their physical activity put on less weight and were metabolically healthier.

In this new study, researchers compared the level and pattern of DNA methylation, a major epigenetic mechanism which controls gene activity, in the newborn infants from mothers who developed GDM with those that did not. They then looked at whether a dietary and physical activity intervention during pregnancy altered these modifications in infants born to mothers who developed GDM.

The results showed that GDM and high glucose levels in mothers were linked to changes in the level and pattern of functional modification to the infants DNA. Moreover, they found that the dietary and exercise intervention significantly reduced these methylation changes in the infant associated with GDM in the mothers.

Karen Lillycrop, Professor of Epigenetics at the University of Southampton said, "These findings suggest that improvements to diet and physical activity can have an impact on the development of their children.

"These are very encouraging finding and further studies are now needed to establish whether reducing these epigenetic changes through a healthier lifestyle during pregnancy are accompanied by improved health outcomes for the children in later life."

Professor Lucilla Poston, Tommy's Chair of Maternal & Fetal Health and lead investigator of the UPBEAT trial at King's College London, said: "we have known for some time that children of mothers who had gestational diabetes are a greater risk of obesity and poor control of glucose; this new research implies that epigenetic pathways could be involved."

Tommy's chief executive Jane Brewin said: "Obesity during pregnancy can have lifelong negative impacts on mother and baby - so one of the best things mums can do is to improve their health, including their weight, before embarking on a pregnancy. However, this study shows that mums who are overweight and their babies can still benefit from adopting a healthy diet while pregnant. All mums-to-be need access to healthy eating advice, and those who are overweight should be given non-judgemental practical support and encouragement to eat healthily during pregnancy."
-end-


University of Southampton

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.