Friday, November 2, 2012

Breaking the Chain of Obesity?

We're all familiar with the reality that certain health problems seem to be passed from generation to generation. For reasons that we have usually assumed related to be a combination of environment and genetics, obesity has been among those issues we always assumed that, to some degree or another, would always tend to run in families. However, a really hopeful and rather amazing study presented regarding the possible effects of weight loss surgery on an obese mother's offspring presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress points to some potentially very exciting conclusions and a possible long-term solution.

Although we have to mention the usual cautions that these findings about obesity surgery are still highly preliminary and there may be differences in outcomes based on differing types of weight loss surgery, the study appears to indicate that the children of mothers who have lost weight through bariatric surgery could be benefiting from some significantly improved health prospects. The really fascinating part, however, is the changes appear to be happening at the genetic level. In other words, it might turn out that, that a significantly overweight woman who loses weight prior to her pregnancy could be decreasing the risk of obesity, and its many related health risks, in her children. Moreover, the reason for this is certain very subtle changes in particular genes which may tend to predispose children to being overweight, or not being overweight. According to the new scientific discipline of epigenetics, It increasingly appears that environmental factors, perhaps including the environment of the womb in the case of unborn children, can turn genes "off" and "on."

So, will women losing large amounts of weight -- either with or without bariatric surgery -- by itself prevent obesity and other issues in children? It's too early to say, but it's definitely an area of study worth paying real attention to.

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