Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Maternal diet and genes interact to affect heart development

Date:
July 6, 2010
Source:
Wellcome Trust
Summary:
A pregnant mother's diet may be able to interact with the genes her unborn child inherits and influence the type or severity of birth defect, according to new research. The study suggests that mothers who eat a high fat diet before and through pregnancy could be inadvertently putting the health of their offspring at risk.

A pregnant mother's diet may be able to interact with the genes her unborn child inherits and influence the type or severity of birth defect according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation (BHF). The study, published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics, suggests that mothers who eat a high fat diet before and through pregnancy could be inadvertently putting the health of their offspring at risk.

Related Articles


Congenital heart disease is the commonest form of a birth defect. It is already known that children born to mothers who have diabetes or are overweight have an increased risk of congenital heart disease and other birth defects. It is also known that certain genetic changes can result in congenital heart disease. However it is not known if environmental factors such as a mother's diet could interact with these genetic changes to affect the outcome.

To investigate this, a team of researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford studied the effect a high fat diet might have in mice on their offspring.

The researchers compared healthy mice against those lacking a gene called Cited2. Cited2 deficiency results in heart defects in mice and in humans. It also sometimes results in an especially serious type of heart defect called atrial isomerism, where the left-right asymmetry of the heart is disturbed.

The mice were fed a diet high in fat before and through pregnancy, and the development of their offspring studied using magnetic resonance imaging. The results were then compared to mice from a control group fed with a balanced diet.

Amongst offspring mice that were deficient in Cited2, the risk of atrial isomerism more than doubled, and the risk of cleft palate increased more than seven fold when the mothers were fed a high fat diet. These changes did not happen in the genetically normal offspring of mothers fed a high fat diet, indicating that it is the combination of high fat diet and the genetic defect that is responsible.

The researchers showed that high fat diet and Cited2 deficiency interacted by reducing the expression of another gene called Pitx2. This latter gene is also necessary for heart development and the body's natural asymmetry.

"These are very important findings as we have been able to show for the first time that gene-environment interactions can affect development of the embryo in the womb," says Dr Jamie Bentham, first author of the study.

"We know that poor diet and defective genes can both affect development, but here we have seen the two combine to cause a much greater risk of developing health problems and more severe problems. We are excited by this as it suggests that congenital heart defects may be preventable by measures such as altering maternal diet."

"There is a growing amount of research which suggests that a mother's diet can have a long term impact on the health of her offspring," says BHF Professor Shoumo Bhattacharya. "This is concerning when we also consider the increasing problem of obesity in women of reproductive age. A healthy, balanced diet is important at all times, but our research shows that this is particularly true during pregnancy when diet can potentially affect both the mother and her child."

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director of the BHF, which part-funded the study, said:

"This research shows that diet during pregnancy can directly affect which genes get switched on in unborn offspring. The study was with mice, but a similar link may exist in humans, leading to some cases of congenital heart disease.

"We already know that if pregnant women lack certain nutrients in the diet, such as folic acid, it can lead to abnormal development in the baby, so it's not surprising that eating too much of something can also cause problems.

"The findings suggest it's wise for pregnant women to stick to a balanced diet and avoid eating too much fatty food. This is good advice for everyone, especially mothers and their children."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wellcome Trust. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust. "Maternal diet and genes interact to affect heart development." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100706103412.htm>.
Wellcome Trust. (2010, July 6). Maternal diet and genes interact to affect heart development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100706103412.htm
Wellcome Trust. "Maternal diet and genes interact to affect heart development." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100706103412.htm (accessed April 17, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 17, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers who analyzed data from over 300,000 kids and their mothers say they&apos;ve found a link between gestational diabetes and autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Family members are prerecording messages as part of a unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home in New York. The videos are trying to help victims of Alzheimer&apos;s disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boy or Girl? Intersex Awareness Is on the Rise

Boy or Girl? Intersex Awareness Is on the Rise

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) At least 1 in 5,000 U.S. babies are born each year with intersex conditions _ ambiguous genitals because of genetic glitches or hormone problems. Secrecy and surgery are common. But some doctors and activists are trying to change things. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins