Losing the fight against the flab It's your mum's fault! Research shows we are programmed to be fat while in the womb
01:53 GMT, 15 March 2012
Overweight: Research shows we can be programmed to be fat while still in the womb
If you can’t shift those extra pounds, no matter how hard you try, blame your mother.
Research suggests we can be programmed to be fat while still in the womb, with a mother-to-be’s lifestyle affecting the health of her baby for years to come.
It is thought that her diet, the amount she exercises, whether she smokes or drinks alcohol and even which pollutants she is exposed to can alter the DNA of her unborn child.
The changes are not to the letters of the code of life itself, but to its ‘punctuation’.
These chemical marks can activate, silence or crank up genes and their actions.
The latest evidence for the theory, which is known as epigenetics, comes from researchers at Newcastle University who analysed the genes of children aged between nine and 11.
They specifically looked for genes that had the same letters but behaved differently in children who were overweight and those who were slim.
Blood samples stored since the children’s births were then analysed.
This step showed that in many cases, youngsters who were overweight had displayed different chemical marks on their DNA at birth.
Influence: It is thought the amount a mother exercises, whether she smokes or drinks alcohol and even which pollutants she is exposed to can alter the DNA of her unborn child
Dr Caroline Relton, who led the research, said: ‘This suggests that our DNA could be marked before birth and these marks could predict our later body composition.’
Dr Relton, whose findings are detailed in the journal PLoS Medicine, does not know why some DNA is marked in the womb.
But previous research suggests it is largely to do with the mother’s lifestyle.
However, Dr Relton added: ‘These marks are open to change. I think this puts the onus on the individual to do something about the way their genes work.’