It is a known fact that what our parents eat and how a kitchen in a household functions, influences our eating preferences from an early stage. But what about what our parents ate before our birth? A new study has revealed that our parents food habits before our birth, impacts us majorly. Researchers found that the offspring of mice fed on high-fat diet too developed obesity and diabetes even when they were born via healthy surrogate mothers.
This enabled the researchers from the Institute of Experimental Genetics to rule out additional factors such as the behaviour of the parents and influences of the mother during pregnancy and lactation. The director of the study Prof Johannes Beckers said that the results showed that both oocytes (eggs) and sperm passed on epigenetic information, which particularly in the female offspring led to severe obesity.
In the male offspring, by contrast, the blood glucose level was more affected than in the female siblings. The data also show that like in humans the maternal contribution to the change in metabolism in the offspring is greater than the paternal contribution.
Prof Martin Hrab De Angelis said that this kind of epigenetic inheritance of a metabolic disorder due to an unhealthy diet could be another major cause for the dramatic global increase in the prevalence of diabetes since the 1960s.
The increase in diabetic patients observed throughout the world can hardly be explained by mutations in the genes themselves (DNA) because the increase has been too fast.
Since epigenetic inheritance -- as opposed to genetic inheritance -- is in principle reversible, new possibilities to influence the development of obesity and diabetes arise from these observations, according to the scientists.
The research is published in the journal Nature Genetics.