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Daily fast food consumption during pregnancy places next THREE generations at risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease

Junk food

(NaturalNews) A daily diet of fast food during pregnancy can dramatically increase the risk of obesity in the next three generations of a woman's descendants, even if those descendants eat a healthy diet themselves, according to a shocking new study conducted by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, and published in the journal Cell Reports.

"Our findings indicate that a mother's obesity can impair the health of later generations," lead researcher Dr. Kelle Moley said. "This is particularly important because more than two-thirds of reproductive-age women in the United States are overweight and obese."

Previous studies have shown that a woman's health during pregnancy can have long-lasting effects on her child's health, including on their weight. But the new study is one of the first to suggest that a woman's eating habits before she conceives may have a similar effect, even on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Junk food damages mitochondrial DNA

The researchers fed female mice a diet comprised of about 60 percent fat and 20 percent sugar, starting six weeks before conception, and continuing until after the mice's offspring had been weaned.

"This mimics more of the Western diet," Moley said. "Basically, it's like eating fast food everyday [sic]."

In contrast, the next three generations of the experimental mice's offspring were fed standard rodent chow, which is high in protein and low in fat and sugar, and is meant to approximate a healthy diet. Yet, despite the healthier diet, the offspring of the original mice still developed metabolic problems such as insulin resistance.

These changes were seen only in maternal descendants of the original mice – that is, their offspring, their daughters' offspring, and the offspring of their daughters' daughters.

Upon performing a genetic analysis, the researchers discovered abnormal mitochondria in the muscular and skeletal cells of the affected mice. Mitochondria, which are responsible for providing energy to cells, possess their own DNA, which is inherited only from the mother.

"Our data are the first to show that pregnant mouse mothers with metabolic syndrome can transmit dysfunctional mitochondria through the female bloodline to three generations," Moley said. "Importantly, our study indicates oocytes - or mothers' eggs - may carry information that programs mitochondrial dysfunction throughout the entire organism."

Study reinforces importance of healthy lifestyle

Moley noted that if the same genetic changes can take place in humans, then the effects of poor maternal diet are likely to be even greater than those seen in mice.

"It's important to note that in humans, in which the diets of children closely mirror those of their parents, the effects of maternal metabolic syndrome may be greater than in our mouse model," Moley said.

The next step should be to determine whether exercise and a better diet can reverse the inherited metabolic abnormalities.

"In any case, eating nutritiously is critical," Moley said. "Over the decades, our diets have worsened, in large part due to processed foods and fast foods.

"We're seeing the effects in the current obesity crisis."

While the new findings are disturbing in their implications, it is also important not to exaggerate their significance. That's because genetic predispositions toward metabolic disorders, such as obesity and diabetes, are typically of limited significance compared with lifestyle factors. That is, if you have a genetic predisposition and have poor diet and exercise habits, you are very likely to become obese and develop other metabolic problems. But if you have good diet and exercise, even a genetic predisposition is unlikely to lead to health problems.

For example, a 2014 study in PLOS Medicine examined type 2 diabetes risk in people who did and people who did not have various gene variants associated with the disease. They found that the effects of lifestyle completely dwarfed the effects of genetic susceptibility.

"There is no good evidence that the knowledge of these variants currently helps predict risk (of diabetes) nor in informing what action people should take," lead researcher Nicholas Wareham said.

Indeed, improving diet and exercise habits has been shown to halve the diabetes risk in even genetically susceptible individuals.

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