There are certain traits that parents want to pass along. Her curly hair and freckles, his dark eyes and dimples—sure, those can all stay. But there are just as many things that we’d much rather not transmit to the next generation.
Our tendency to struggle with weight is definitely on that list.
Unfortunately, a new study suggests that mothers who are obese leading into pregnancy may be passing on metabolic issues to her children and even her grandchildren, regardless of whether or not they lead healthy lives.
The findings, published in the “Maternal Metabolic Syndrome Programs Mitochondrial Dysfunction via Germline Changes across Three Generations,” focused on mice, but the researchers believe that the same results can be linked to humans. Pregnant mice who were obese before or during pregnancy were more likely to pass on the obesity gene to their offspring, along with a handful of other metabolic diseases like diabetes and insulin resistance.
And with obesity on the rise in Canada—54 per cent of us are categorized as overweight or obese (StatsCan, 2014)—this isn’t the kind of headline we should just brush under the rug.
For the study, mom-to-be mice were fed high-fat, high-sugar diets (60 per cent fat and 20 per cent sugar). Their offspring, who were tracked for three generations, were fed restricted, high-protein diets, with limited sugar and fat. The results showed that, despite a healthy diet, those mice with obese maternal relations were more likely to suffer impaired health.
But what about the Pops? Turns out we’re not programmed to inherit obesity-affecting cells from dad. So, technically, Dad can eat all the croissants he wants, at least as far as the health of his children is concerned.
Like we said, life’s not fair.