Can Your Diet Increase Your Future Children’s Risk of Obesity and Diabetes?
Posted on May 6, 2016
It’s an old debate. What’s more important, nature or nurture? Clearly, they both play a role in our development, but scientists have discovered that nurture affects nature in some fascinating ways most people have never heard of.
For example, the DNA in your cells was pretty much fixed on the day you were conceived. You were born with it. It is what it is.
Or is it?
See, the DNA in our cells is wrapped around proteins called “histones.” The DNA and histones are covered with chemical tags that form a layer called the “epigenome.”
The epigenome causes some genes to activate and others to fall dormant.
Now here’s something very important…
While the DNA code remains fixed for life, the epigenome is flexible and can be influenced by things from the outside environment such as diet and stress.
The epigenome is incredible and can turn genes on and off quickly in reaction to an ever-changing environment, which could be a good thing or a bad thing…
For example, a new study published by the German Research Center for Environmental Health claims you are what your parents ate.
In other words, both diet-induced obesity and diabetes can be epigenetically inherited by children through both the oocytes and sperm. (An oocyte is an immature female egg.)
In the study, researchers fed mice a diet designed to induce diabetes. Then, they used sperm from the male mice to fertilize eggs from the female mice through in vitro fertilization and placed the eggs in healthy, non-overweight surrogate mothers. This way, if the offspring had similar glucose sensitivity to their parents, that trait would had to have come via genetics and not from learned behaviors.
Later observations showed the offspring did indeed inherit their parents’ glucose sensitivity, and the female mice in particular became quite obese.
Lead investigator Dr. Martin Hrabĕ de Angelis writes, “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.”
Dr. de Angelis and his colleagues note the increase in diabetes observed throughout the world in recent decades could not be the result of
DNA mutation alone because it has occurred too fast. However, it can be explained though epigenetic inheritance.
This may seem like terrible news, but it is not. It is just information, and this information can be used to make HUGE positive changes.
For example, epigenetic inheritance is not permanent like genetic inheritance. In fact, it is reversible, and scientists see this as a new possibility to curb both the obesity and diabetes epidemics.
It has never been more obvious that everyone should eat as healthy a diet as possible. It has also never been clearer that two people trying to have a child should be EXTRA careful about what they eat.
But sadly, many are not listening. In fact, a recent article in Health News references a study that says more than half of the average American diet is composed of “ultra-processed foods.”
What are “ultra-processed foods?” According to researchers, “Ultra-processed foods are concoctions of several ingredients, including salt, sugar, oils and fats. They also contain chemicals not generally used in cooking, such as flavorings, emulsifiers and other additives designed to mimic real foods.”
These ultra-processed foods also make up 90% of the excess sugar calories Americans consume.
Common ultra-processed foods include: soda, packages snacks, candy, ice cream, packaged baked goods, instant noodles and soups, and reconstituted meat products, such as chicken and fish nuggets.
While it’s probably harmless to enjoy some of these foods from time to time, there are plenty of studies indicating that people who eat more servings of fruits and vegetables and healthy proteins and fats are less likely to gain weight or have high blood pressure, and are better able to manage their blood sugar, etc.
So, not only will eating a healthier diet benefit you today, it may also benefit the kids you haven’t yet had.