Research had already shown that overweight mothers have a higher chance of giving birth to overweight babies, and that the risk of obesity later in life remains bigger for such children. But a new study finds that increased body weight later in a child's life may also be linked to exposure to pollution and stress in utero!
The study, which appeared in the journal Plos One, looked at the DNA of obesity. They found that chances that occurred around the time a baby is born may result from the baby's prenatal environment, and linked a high BMI at nine years old to exposure to pollution and stress in the womb. The team, led by Dr Caroline Relton from Newcastle University, took blood samples from 24 children aged between 11 and 13, to isolate epigenetic changes in 29 genes that are linked to weight.
They then went on to examine another study of 178 children. For those participants, the blood samples available started with cord blood taken at birth, all the way through to age nine.
The BBC quoted Dr Relton as saying: "Other studies have just taken genes at birth and looked at differences irrespective of whether they are differently expressed with different levels of obesity. The difference between this study and others is that we had a reason to focus on the genes we looked at because we knew they were differently expressed in children with a higher BMI."
She added: "While we have discovered an association between these genes and body size in childhood we need to carry out further studies to establish whether influencing the expression of these genes by altering epigenetic patterns is indeed a trigger to obesity."
In other words, a lot more research is still needed before anything that the study team looked into can definitely be confirmed. Scientists are well on the way to finding out the role of nature vs nurture when it comes to weight though, which may help a lot of people be healthier in the future.