Skip to main content

What a mom-to-be eats can actually alter the DNA of her unborn child, researchers say.

Walter Zerla/iStockphoto

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies