Does a Mother’s Diet Affect Her Baby’s Genes for Type 2 Diabetes During Pregnancy?
Many of us learned in high school and college that biological traits could not be inherited. Because the genes are unaffected by appendix removal, even if the mother or father had one removed, the baby will still be born with one. These days, it seems that although we inherit the same genes as our parents, with the exception of a rare mutation, molecules called epigenes influence which genes are expressed. The DNA is chemically altered, turning some genes on or off, through processes like phosphorylation and methylation.
In 2011 the journal Diabetes reported the results of a study of methylation in the genes of newborns. They noted specific gene regions that had different levels of methylation and connected that information to the mother of the newborn’s diet during pregnancy. Nine years later, it was discovered that the level of methylation that had been recorded could account for 25% of the child’s risk for obesity. Children whose genes were methylated in a way that made them highly susceptible to obesity tended to be born to mothers who consumed low amounts of carbohydrates.
In August 2014 FASEB Journal reported the results of a study conducted at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and Cambridge University in Cambridge, England are two examples of universities in other countries. Patterns of DNA methylation were found in…
- infants from mothers with Gestational diabetes,
- infants with poor growth before birth, and
- infants with normal growth.
Genes linked to diabetes and growth were found to have different methylation patterns in the first two groups.
Could the nutrition given to fetuses change which of their genes will be expressed, affecting subsequent generations? Time and observation will tell. During the Dutch famine winter of 1944, infants whose mothers were pregnant frequently gave birth undernourished. They were discovered to be at a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes fifty years later. It will be interesting to find out if their kids and grandkids are also prone.
Although there are numerous risk factors for type 2 diabetes and no single factor can absolutely prevent it from occurring, healthy eating during pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk. Enough carbohydrates can be obtained with the help of a lot of fruits and vegetables while avoiding excessively high insulin and blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates aren’t absorbed as quickly because of the fiber in plant-based foods. Normalizing weight prior to conception and gaining just enough weight to produce a healthy baby will reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes in both the mother and the fetus, as well as possibly in the mother. perhaps additional generations.