15/03/2012 09:08 GMT

Obesity May Be Determined In Womb By Mother's Lifestyle

A pregnant woman’s diet and lifestyle could have an effect on her child’s weight later in life, a study has found.

Scientists discovered a link between DNA changes at birth and the BMI of the child aged nine.

The study, published in journal Plos One, looked at data from a study of 178 babies, which took blood samples from the umbilical cord to analyse genes that are known to be linked to body weight.

They found that nine of the 24 genes analysed were linked to the child’s weight age nine.

Lead researcher, Professor Caroline Relton, Senior Lecturer in Epigenetic Epidemiology at Newcastle University, told the BBC: "Other studies have just taken genes at birth and looked at differences irrespective of whether they are differently expressed with different levels of obesity.”

She added: "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."

There is growing evidence to support the idea that environmental factors like diet, exercise, stress and smoking can affect when genes are ‘switched on and off’ even while in the womb.

However, Dr Relton points out that further research is needed to prove that these changes in DNA could be contributing to obesity.

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."

There is no doubt a healthy, balanced diet is essential during pregnancy to promote optimum health for mother and baby. Here is our roundup of the best pregnancy 'superfoods'...

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