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14 April 2011

Stress during pregnancy may affect a child's obesity

A mother's nutritional or psychological stress during pregnancy and lactation may create a signature on her child's genes that puts the child at increased risk for obesity.

There is increasing evidence from human and animal studies that offspring of parents who were physically or psychologically stressed are at higher risk of developing obesity, and that these offspring may in turn "transmit" that increased risk to the next generation.

New research conducted at the University of Minnesota and Georgetown University suggests that a mother's nutritional or psychological stress during pregnancy and lactation may create a signature on her child's genes that puts the child at increased risk for obesity later in life, especially if the child is female.

The Minnesota team focused on the behaviour of neuropeptide Y (NPY), a neurotransmitter found in the brain and autonomic nervous system that is associated with appetite stimulation and the storage of energy as fat. Building on prior research in the field, the team undertook two studies, one involving mice and the other involving mouse embryonic stem cells.

 
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