Study Finds Parents’ Food Habits Influence Offspring’s Health

Mar 17, 2016 04:20 AM EDT | By Chandan Das

Findings of a recent study published in "Natural Genetics" suggest that to a large extent one's health is dependent on what their parents ate. For instance, scientists have demonstrated that obesity induced by diet as well as diabetes can be inherited epigenetically by an offspring both via the sperm and oocytes.

During the study conducted on mice, researchers from the Institute of Experimental Genetics (IEG) chose rodents that were obese and with type 2 diabetes owing to a diet with high-fat content. They obtained their offspring solely via in vitro fertilization (IVF) from isolated sperm and oocytes to ensure that the changes in the offspring could be passed on only through these cells, Helmholtz Zentrum München reported.

In fact, these offspring were carried by healthy surrogate mothers who gave them birth. This helped the scientists to eliminate other factors like the parents' behavior and influences of their mother throughout pregnancy and lactation.

According to the director of the study, Prof. Johannes Beckers, their findings showed that oocytes, as well as sperm, imparted epigenetic information, which led to acute obesity, especially in the female offspring. On the other hand, the blood glucose level in the male offspring was more affected compared to the female siblings. The findings also revealed that as in the case of humans, compared to parental contribution, the maternal influence on metabolic changes in the offspring was much more.

The findings of the study suggest the possible explanation diabetes spreading so rapidly across the globe, reports Science Daily.

According to The IEG director Prof. Martin Hrabe de Angelis, who initiated the study, inheriting this type of epigenetic metabolic disorder owing to a harmful diet may possibly be another major reason for the rapid spread of diabetes worldwide since the 1960s. In fact, mutation of genes may be the only reason for the steady and rapid rise in the number of diabetics worldwide.

However, the study also offers some good news. Contrary to genetic inheritance, epigenetic inheritance is reversible theoretically. Therefore, the findings of the new study bring hope that henceforth it would be possible to influence the development of diabetes and obesity.

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