"We found that exposure to a high-fat diet before birth modifies gene expression in the livers of offspring so they are more likely to overproduce glucose, which can cause early insulin resistance and diabetes," said Yuan-Xiang Pan, a U of I professor of nutrition.
The high-fat diet that caused these changes was a typical Western diet that contained 45 percent fat, which is not at all unusual, he said.
"In recent years, the American diet has shifted to include many high-energy, high-fat, cafeteria-type, and fast foods," he noted.
Because the epigenetic marks can be easily evaluated, Pan hopes that the study will give doctors a diagnostic tool to screen newborns born with this propensity so they can help children keep their blood sugar in a normal range and give them their best chance of avoiding diabetes.
In the study, Pan and doctoral student Rita Strakovsky fed obesity-resistant rats either a high-fat or a control diet from the first day of gestation. Because the animals were not obese before the study began, the scientists were able to determine that diet alone had produced these effects.
"At birth, offspring in the high-fat group had blood sugar levels that were twice as high as those in the control group, even though their mothers had normal levels," Strakovsky said.
The high-fat offspring also had epigenetic modifications to genes that regulate glucose metabolism. One of these modifications, the acetylation of histones, acts by loosening the DNA, making it easier for the gene to be transcribed, she said.
Pan said these epigenetic marks would not be erased easily. However, if people were aware of them, they could change their diet and lifestyle to compensate for their predisposition, delaying or even preventing the development of diabetes.
"We'd like to see if diet after birth could alleviate this problem that was programmed before birth," he said.
Although their study points to using epigenetics as a diagnostic tool, Strakovsky stressed the importance of making dietary recommendations for pregnant women more available so they are able to prevent this health problem.
"Obstetrics patients rarely see a dietitian unless they're having medical problems like gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia. Doctors now tend to focus on how much weight a woman should gain in a healthy pregnancy. Although healthy weight gain is extremely important, nutritional guidance could be invaluable for all pregnant women and their babies," she said.
Pregnant women should consume a balanced diet low in saturated fats, which are usually found in fattier cuts of meat, fast foods, pastries, and desserts. But they should also consume appropriate amounts of healthy fats, including good sources of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, which are important for their baby's brain and neuron development.
Cold-water fish that are low in mercury, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, soybean and cod liver oils, walnuts and winter squash are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs, corn oil, whole-grain bread, poultry, and sunflower seeds and oil provide omega-6 fatty acids.
"Until now we didn't realize that a mother's diet during pregnancy had a long-term effect on the metabolic pathways that affect her child's glucose production," Pan said. "Now that we know this, we urge pregnant women to eat a balanced low-fat diet that follows government guidelines. Then a woman can prime her child for a healthy life instead of future medical struggles."
The article, "Gestational high-fat diet programs hepatic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase gene expression and histone modification in neonatal offspring rats," is available pre-publication online at http://jp.physoc.org/content/early/2011/03/28/jphysiol.2010.203950.full.pdf+html. Co-authors are Rita S. Strakovsky, Xiyuan Zhang, and Dan Zhou, all of the U of I. The study was funded by the USDA.
Phyllis Picklesimer | EurekAlert!
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences