Scientists from the University of Navarra (Spain) have found that a mother's stress, due to socio-economic or psycho-social causes, is associated with the development of infant pathologies related to obesity.
"The growing prevalence of obesity cannot be solely attributed to genetic factors or poor nutrition, but also to lifestyle and adverse environmental factors," explained Javier Campión, lead researcher on the study. "Environmental factors could have a bearing on epigenetic mechanisms, which are responsible for the control of genes beyond the genetic code itself."
For the study, the researchers worked with two groups of rats, stressed and unstressed, and examined in the offspring any alterations in the expression of genes related with obesity and the metabolism of glucocorticoids in the white adipose tissue (fat).
"The general conclusion we obtained was that an adverse situation during intrauterine development could lead to animals, due to the ingestion of a hyper-calorific diet, experiencing a greater increase in body fat and biochemical, hormonal and genetic alterations," said Campión.
Campión says that stress, which during the normal life of a woman may not affect health, could be altering the development of the baby and leading to a predisposition towards the development of pathologies during adulthood, possibly due to epigenetic modification.
"These days many women continue with their hectic lives during pregnancy almost up to the birth, without noticing the stress they may be under," Campión said. "A healthy life during the pregnancy does not only consist of a good diet, with a good provision of vitamins and minerals, but also in living a quiet life, without stress."
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Source: Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology