Surgery to Lose Weight for Mothers May Help Break Obesity Cycle in Kids
Obese mothers tend to have children who also become obese. Now research suggests that surgery to lose weight may help break that unhealthy cycle in by affecting how their children’s genes behave. In a first-of-a-kind study, Canadian researchers tested children born to obese women. It also included their brothers and sisters who were conceived after the mother had obesity surgery. Youngsters born after the mother had surgery to lose weight were slimmer than their siblings.
They also had fewer risk factors for diabetes or heart disease later in life. Numerous genes linked to obesity-related health problems worked differently in the younger siblings than in their older brothers and sisters. Clearly, diet and exercise play a huge role in how fit the younger siblings will continue to be. But, the findings suggest the children born after the surgery to lose weight might have an advantage.
According to Dr. Marie-Claude Vohl of Laval University in Quebec City and in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the idea is that factors inside the womb seem to affect the dimmer switches that develop on a fetus’ genes. These chemical changes make genes speed up or slow down or switch on and off. It makes biological sense that the earliest nutritional environment could affect a developing metabolism.
It’s the latest evidence that the womb can alter how our genes work. The research has implications far beyond the drastic step of gastric bypass surgery before having a baby. Increasingly, scientists are hunting other ways to tackle obesity before or during pregnancy in hopes of a lasting benefit for both mother and baby. More than half of pregnant women are overweight or obese.
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy increases the child’s risk of eventually developing obesity and diabetes. Women with normal weight at the start of pregnancy are supposed to gain 25 to 35 pounds. Those who already are obese should gain no more than 11 to 20 pounds, or none at all. Consider that overweight mothers have higher levels of sugar and fat in the bloodstream, which in turn makes it to the womb. Specialists urge women planning a pregnancy to talk with their doctors about their weight ahead of time. Besides having potential long-term consequences, extra pounds can lead to a variety of immediate complications such as an increased risk of premature birth.