Maternal undernutrition, twinning may increase risk of type 2 diabetes in offspring

Being undernourished during pregnancy or having twins may increase the risk of the offspring developing type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life, according to research published in The FASEB Journal.

When present at conception and early pregnancy, these conditions can lead to epigenetic changes leading to altered energy balance regulation in the offspring.

Researchers from University of Manchester in the UK studied sheep to analyze the effect of twinning and moderate maternal undernutrition from 60 days before mating to 30 days after mating.

The brain tissue of the fetal sheep before birth showed that there were changes in the genes controlling food intake and glucose levels in fetuses that were either twins or a single pregnancy with maternal undernutrition.

The genetic changes were specific to the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that produces hormones controlling body temperature, hunger, mood, sleep, thirst and sex drive.

These changes were not inherited changes in the DNA sequence but changes in the structure of the DNA itself and its proteins called histones that affect how genes behave later in life.

As reported in Medical News Today (MNT), researchers found that the study suggests that dieting around the time a baby is conceived may increase the chance of the child becoming obese later in life.

MNT also reports that expectant mothers must take care when dieting during pregnancy. Both DNA and histones are susceptible to bing eating and dieting of the mother.

Diabetes affects 25.8 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the population. About 95 percent of all cases are type 2 diabetes, in which the body loses its ability to use and produce insulin.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history, having diabetes while pregnant, a sedentary lifestyle and race/ethnicity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as one in three US adults may have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue.

Sources: The FASEB Journal, Medical News Today, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

photo by John Nyboer

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