Pregnant women are constantly being told what to eat, what not to eat, and to make sure not to eat too much. A new study out this week adds another wrinkle to the often-confusing body of research out there on the topic. Supposedly healthy low-carb eating can, oddly enough, put offspring at risk for obesity.
A team of researchers from Australia, Singapore and the United Kingdom have found that mothers who had diets low in carbohydrates during pregnancy bore children who showed certain changes to their DNA - as measured in the umbilical cord. The researchers then tied those genetic changes to body fat at age 6 and 9, according to a piece on the study in Time magazine.
The genetic changes are known as so-called epigenetic changes and they occur to the cellular material that sits on top of genes and modifies how they are expressed. The epigenome acts as a dial, turning up and down the expression of various genes. Previously, other scientists have argued that such epigenetic changes - the most common type is known as DNA methylation - can be passed onto future generations, TIME reports.
According to a BBC interview with the lead author of the study, Keith Godfrey, a professor at the University of Southampton, the finding accounts for a quarter of the difference "in the fatness of children six to nine years later." The study says the effect was "considerably greater" than that of birth weight and did not depend on how thin or fat the mother was, reports the BBC.
"The research suggests women should follow the advice as it may have a long term influence on the baby's health after it is born," Dr. Godfrey told the BBC.
In a way, this is some of the more relaxed news pregnant women have had in a while. Just eat the bagel, already.