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Genetics

Bariatric surgery can impact health of unborn child

Credit: tipstimes.com/pregnancy
Surgery also reduces the risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease

Canadian researchers have revealed that children to women who have children after bariatric surgery are less likely than their siblings to be overweight and have fewer risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease.

Reporting their findings in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the investigators tested children born to obese women, plus their brothers and sisters who were conceived after the mother had obesity surgery.

The mothers, who had a biliopancreatic diversion, had an average starting BMI of 40, which dropped to an average of 27 after the operation.

They found that the youngsters who were born after their mother lost weight were slimmer than their siblings as well as having fewer risk factors.

The key, said the researchers, lies with numerous genes linked to obesity-related health problems, which worked differently in the younger siblings compared to their older brothers and sisters.

"The impact on the genes, you will see the impact for the rest of your life," said lead study author, Dr Marie-Claude Vohl of Laval University in Quebec City.

So-called called ‘foetal programming’  maintains that a woman's nutrition, her stress levels, her exposure to toxic pollutants and her own health status can affect a baby's genetic make-up by chaning the way those genes carry out their program.

They recruited 20 mothers who had undergone gastric bypass surgery, and 50 of the womens' children became their subjects. Half of the subjects were born before their mother's surgery and half were born after.

The average age of the children born to heavier mothers was almost 15 years old; the average age of the children born after their mothers' surgeries was ten.

The researchers combed through the two groups' genes to look for differences in methylation, the tiny groups of chemicals that piggyback on DNA molecules and in myriad ways, influence how that DNA is expressed.

They found 5,698 genes that showed distinctly different patterns of methylation between the two groups. Those differentially methylated genes were overwhelmingly involved in insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation (associated with type 2 diabetes) and in inflammatory processes (associated with cardiovascular diseases, auto-immune disorders and disorders of the musculo-skeletal system and gastro-intestinal tract).

Therefore the researchers said that these findings suggest that a woman who goes into a pregnancy extremely obese is doing more than passing on genes that predispose her child to obesity and the health effects commonly associated with it.

“Foetuses are marinated, and they're differently marinated depending on mom's weight and health,” said Dr John Kral of New York's SUNY Downstate Medical Center, who co-authored the Canadian study.

The researchers previously reported some of this data at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.

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