The study revealed that children of women who underwent gastric bypass surgery were less likely to suffer from obesity compared to their older siblings who were born prior to the surgery.
It has been established that obese mothers are more likely to have children who will also be obese. According to a previous article published in Archives of Disease in Childhood (BMJ), there are various factors which contribute towards a child's risk of becoming obese, but a major one is when the mother herself is obese. Researchers found that children with obese mothers have 4 percent more body fat than kids with normal weight mothers.
However, the authors believed that lifestyle factors were the main reason for this trend.
In their analysis, the investigators identified significant genetic differences between children born after the surgery and their brothers or sisters who were born before.
This new finding therefore suggests that genes are directly related to childhood obesity.
Experts believe that genes play a crucial role in causing obesity; they say that overweight or obese mothers have much higher levels of sugar and fat in their bloodstream which can directly affect the health of their baby.
The high levels of fat and sugar could be the reason babies born to obese mothers are at a higher risk of becoming obese later in life.
A total of 50 children who were born to 20 mothers before and after they underwent gastric bypass surgery were analyzed by the researchers.
All the mothers were obese before they underwent gastric bypass surgery, which involved reducing the consumption of food by rearranging the small intestine.
The children who were born after their mothers underwent gastric bypass surgery were not only less likely to become obese, but also had a lower risk of developing diabetes or heart disease later in life.
The researchers identified that a total of "5,698 genes were differentially methylated between siblings born before maternal surgery (BMS) and siblings born after maternal bariatric gastrointestinal bypass surgery (AMS) siblings, exhibiting a preponderance of glucoregulatory, inflammatory, and vascular disease genes."
The authors concluded that:
"Statistically significant correlations between gene methylation levels and gene expression and plasma markers of insulin resistance were consistent with metabolic improvements in AMS offspring, reflected in genes involved in diabetes-related cardiometabolic pathways.
This unique clinical study demonstrates that effective treatment of a maternal phenotype is durably detectable in the methylome and transcriptome of subsequent offspring."
Researchers at the University at Buffalo previously found that fetuses of obese mother rats were programmed in utero to develop obesity in adulthood. According to the authors of the study, there is good reason to presume that the mechanism would be similar in humans.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist