Scientists in New Zealand are dispelling the common myth that obesity is caused by “bad genes.”
In what is referred to as a breakthrough discovery, scientists from Auckland University’s Liggins Institute have discovered that genetic pre-disposition to obesity can be reversed through good nutrition in early childhood.
Their research shows that when a mother is undernourished, her child’s body is pre-set to cope with a life of scarcity; therefore, the energy-dense, fast-food diet of the Western world results in children who are likely to become fat.
In laboratory tests, newborn offspring from both well-fed and undernourished rats were given leptin, a hormone that signals to the body when it has eaten enough. When they became adults, the long-term effects were measured by looking at genes that regulate metabolism in the liver. Rats from well-fed mothers reacted to leptin in the opposite way to those from undernourished mothers.
The researchers urge mothers to eat a more balanced diet (with the right amounts of protein and vitamins) during pregnancy. However, if the fetus is under-nourished in the womb, the long-term effects can still be corrected through good nutrition.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences July 23, 2007
The New Zealand Herald July 25, 2007