UVA study: Exercise during pregnancy can save children from health problems as adults

Parental obesity predisposes children to developing diabetes and metabolic problems

Exercise during pregnancy can cause mothers to significantly reduce their children’s chances of developing diabetes and other metabolic diseases later in life.

A study on laboratory mice found that maternal exercise during pregnancy prevented the transmission of metabolic diseases from an overweight parent – either mother or father – to the child. If the result is true in humans, it will have “enormous implications” in helping pregnant women ensure their children are leading the healthiest possible lives, the researchers report in a new scientific article.

This means that one day a woman’s first trip to the doctor after conception may include a prescription for an exercise program.

“Most of the chronic diseases we talk about today are known to be of fetal origin. This means that the parents’ poor health conditions before and during pregnancy have negative consequences for the child, possibly through chemical modification of the genes, ”said researcher Zhen Yan, PhD, a top exercise expert at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “We were inspired by our previous mouse research which implied that regular aerobic exercise for an obese mother before and during pregnancy could protect the child from the early onset of diabetes. In this study we asked the questions: what if an obese mother only exercises during pregnancy, and what if the father is obese? “

Obesity and pregnancy

Scientists know that exercise during pregnancy leads to healthy babies and reduces the risk of pregnancy complications and premature delivery. However, Yan, the director of the Center for Skeletal Muscle Research at UVA’s Robert M. Berner Cardiovascular Research Center, wanted to see if the benefits persisted throughout the children’s lives. And his previous and recent work suggests that it is.

To determine this, Yan and his staff examined laboratory mice and their offspring. Some of the adult mice were given typical mouse chow before and during pregnancy, while others were given a high-fat, high-calorie diet to simulate obesity. Some who were on a high-fat diet prior to mating only had access to a voluntary balance bike during pregnancy, which they could run whatever they wanted, while others didn’t, which meant they remained sedentary.

The results were remarkable: both mothers and fathers in the high-fat group were able to predispose their offspring to metabolic disorders. In particular, male offspring of sedentary mothers who ate high-fat diets were much more likely to develop high blood sugar and other metabolic problems in adulthood.

To better understand what was happening, the researchers studied the metabolism of the adult offspring and the chemical (epigenetic) modification of DNA. They found that there were significant differences in metabolic health and in the activity of certain genes between different groups of offspring, suggesting that the negative effects of obesity in parents, although different between father and mother, may be throughout To halt children’s lives.

The good news is that maternal exercise prevented a multitude of “epigenetic” changes that affect the functioning of the offspring’s genes only during pregnancy, the researchers found. They found that maternal exercise completely blocked the negative effects of mother or father obesity on the offspring.

The results provide the first evidence that maternal exercise can prevent the transmission of metabolic diseases from parent to child only during pregnancy.

“The takeaway news is that it is not too late to start exercising when a mother is pregnant. Regular exercise will not only benefit pregnancy and childbirth, but also the baby’s health in the long term, ”said Yan. “This is more exciting evidence that regular exercise is probably the most promising measure of preventing the chronic disease pandemic in the aging world as it can disrupt the vicious cycle of parent-to-child disease transmission.”

The researchers have published their results in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The study’s authors were Rhianna C. Laker, Ali Alt? Nta ?, Travis S. Lillard, Mei Zhang, Jessica J. Connelly, Olivia L. Sabik, Suna Onengut, Stephen S. Rich, Charles R. Farber, Romain Barrès and Yan.

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