Study suggests obesity surgery can break cycle in kids

A small Canadian study suggests that women who have obesity surgery can break the cycle of obesity in kids that are born to the women after the surgery. The researchers studied siblings – some born before surgery and some born after – to study the affects of the surgery.

From The Associated Press:

“WASHINGTON (AP) – Obese mothers tend to have kids who become obese. Now provocative research suggests weight-loss surgery may help break that unhealthy cycle in an unexpected way – by affecting how their children’s genes behave.

“In a first-of-a-kind study, Canadian researchers tested children born to obese women, plus their brothers and sisters who were conceived after the mother had obesity surgery. Youngsters born after mom lost lots of weight were slimmer than their siblings. They also had fewer risk factors for diabetes or heart disease later in life.

“More intriguing, the researchers discovered that numerous genes linked to obesity-related health problems worked differently in the younger siblings than in their older brothers and sisters.

“Clearly diet and exercise play a huge role in how fit the younger siblings will continue to be, and it’s a small study. But the findings suggest the children born after mom’s surgery might have an advantage.

“The impact on the genes, you will see the impact for the rest of your life,” predicted Dr. Marie-Claude Vohl of Laval University in Quebec City. She helped lead the work reported Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Why would there be a difference? It’s not that mom passed on different genes, but how those genes operate in her child’s body. The idea: Factors inside the womb seem to affect the dimmer switches that develop on a fetus’ genes – chemical changes that make genes speed up or slow down or switch on and off. That in turn can greatly influence health.

“The sibling study is “a very clever way of looking at this,” said Dr. Susan Murphy of Duke University. She wasn’t involved in the Canadian research but studies uterine effects on later health. She says it makes biological sense that the earliest nutritional environment could affect a developing metabolism, although she cautions that healthier family habits after mom’s surgery may play a role, too.

“It’s the latest evidence that the environment – in this case the womb – can alter how our genes work.

“And the research has implications far beyond the relatively few women who take the drastic step of gastric bypass surgery before having a baby. Increasingly, scientists are hunting other ways to tackle obesity before or during pregnancy in hopes of a lasting benefit for both mother and baby.

What’s clear is that obesity is “not just impacting your life, it’s impacting your child,” Duke’s Murphy said.

“More than half of pregnant women are overweight or obese, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But it’s not just a matter of how much moms weigh when they conceive – doctors also are trying to stamp out the idea of eating for two. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy increases the child’s risk of eventually developing obesity and diabetes, too.

What’s too much? Women who are normal weight at the start of pregnancy are supposed to gain 25 to 35 pounds. Those who already are obese should gain no more than 11 to 20 pounds. Overweight mothers-to-be fall in the middle.

“Sticking to those guidelines can be tough. The National Institutes of Health just began a five-year, $30 million project to help overweight or obese pregnant women do so, and track how their babies fare in the first year of life.

“Called the LIFE-Moms Consortium, researchers are recruiting about 2,000 expectant mothers for seven studies around the country that are testing different approaches to a healthy weight gain and better nutritional quality. They range from putting pregnant women on meal plans and exercise programs, to weekly monitoring, to peer pressure from fellow parents trained to bring nutrition advice into the homes of low-income mothers-to-be.

“It’s best to get to a healthy weight before conceiving, noted Dr. Mary Evans of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, who oversees the project.

“Just how much mom has to lose for a healthier baby is “obviously a research gap,” she said.

“Monday’s research findings from Canada may shed some new light. Consider: Overweight mothers have higher levels of sugar and fat in the bloodstream, which in turn makes it to the womb.

“Fetuses are “marinated, and they’re differently marinated” depending on mom’s weight and health, said Dr. John Kral of New York’s SUNY Downstate Medical Center, who co-authored the Canadian study.

That may do more than overstimulate fetal growth. Scientists know that certain molecules regulate gene activity, attaching like chemical tags. That’s what Laval University lead researcher Dr. Frederic Guenard was looking for in blood tests. He took samples from children born to 20 women before and after complex surgery that shrank their stomachs and rerouted digestion so they absorb less fat and calories. On average, they lost about 100 pounds.

Guenard compared differences in those chemical tags in more than 5,600 genes between the younger and older siblings. He found significant differences in the activity of certain genes clustered in pathways known to affect blood sugar metabolism and heart disease risk.

Only time will tell if these youngsters born after mom’s surgery really get lasting benefits, whatever the reason. Meanwhile, specialists urge women planning a pregnancy to talk with their doctors about their weight ahead of time. Besides having potential long-term consequences, extra pounds can lead to a variety of immediate complications such as an increased risk of premature birth and cesarean sections.”

My initial thought on this is that the younger sibs being healthier would have more to do with the mother’s lifestyle changes after the child was born – she was eating healthier and feeding her family healthier foods and making sure that the kids were getting exercise – rather than a change in her genes.

Now I did think the statement from Dr. Kral  – see below – was a better explanation  (I like how he uses the word marinate.)

“Fetuses are “marinated, and they’re differently marinated” depending on mom’s weight and health, said Dr. John Kral of New York’s SUNY Downstate Medical Center, who co-authored the Canadian study.

“That may do more than overstimulate fetal growth. Scientists know that certain molecules regulate gene activity, attaching like chemical tags. That’s what Laval University lead researcher Dr. Frederic “Guenard was looking for in blood tests. He took samples from children born to 20 women before and after complex surgery that shrank their stomachs and rerouted digestion so they absorb less fat and calories. On average, they lost about 100 pounds.”

“Guenard compared differences in those chemical tags in more than 5,600 genes between the younger and older siblings. He found significant differences in the activity of certain genes clustered in pathways known to affect blood sugar metabolism and heart disease risk.”

OK so what do you think about this study and the concept that by having obesity surgery women can change the obesity cycle for her kids? Do you think it’s more related to changing her genes or more related to what she is ingesting while she is pregnant and what her child ingests after birth?

10 comments Add your comment

Studying studies

June 4th, 2013
12:36 pm

Studies have also shown that if you LIMIT the amount of JUNK you give to your kid, they will NOT become obese.

Studies have also shown that if you actually parent your kids, you have healthier kids.

Studies have also shown that active kids are very rarely obese.

Studies have also shown that getting off your ass is much healthier than sitting around playing video games or glued to the tv all day long.

Studies have also shown that taking PE out of schools make a hyper student. Studies have also shown that parents LOVE to medicate their kids when confronted with the mythical ADHD by teachers, because they can’t sit quietly for 6 hours.

Seriously?

June 4th, 2013
12:37 pm

I think the study is clear – it’s a result of the child being exposed to different chemicals in utero, as a result of the metabolic changes surgery brought about. Just FYI – not all fat people eat tons of processed foods or unhealthy foods. Some of us have legitimate diseases that cause us to be obese. Personally, I have metabolic syndrome (a complex disease involving PCOS, Hypertension, hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance among other things) that makes it virtually impossible to lose weight unless I eat 800 calories a day. I’m having a vertical sleeve gastrectomy in October, which, if all goes well, will cure my health and weight problems.

Studying studies

June 4th, 2013
12:37 pm

Also, studies have shown that if YOU as a parent lead a healthy lifestyle, your children will follow suit.

Is it really that difficult to understand?

Me

June 4th, 2013
12:50 pm

I’m just not convinced that obesity is purely genetics. I know that many on here will perhaps disagree and so be it. The cynical side of me tends to think that playing the “gene” card is an excuse or a cop out as in “it isn’t my fault”… I will lean toward believing that one’s metabolism may be tied to genetics but not obesity, per se, any more so than someone “destined” to be slim.
Should someone burn more calories than the number consumed I simply don’t see a manner by which obesity can be an issue; genetics or not. Maybe some have to work harder to burn these calories but that isn’t the point of the “study”.
And how, pray tell, can obesity surgery change actual genes and/or their behavior? If this is doable, why not just change the behavior of the genes entirely to adjust whatever wishes exist, i.e. hair loss, penis size, chest hair, stronger nails, desired hair color resulting in no more coloring of roots, etc. Not to mention the ability to adjust for perfect eyesight, hearing, and teeth. You should even be able to compensate for fallen arches, vericose veins, cholesterol levels and the list goes on. Why does the gene altering have to stop with obesity?

Studying studies

June 4th, 2013
1:31 pm

Studies show that people relying on their studies are not used to critical thinking. Studies also show that the wine lobby pays for studies that say a glass of red wine every day is good for you. Studies also show that if you are over 40 and have a very mild risk of a heart attack, moderate exercise and a Lipitor everyday helps. Obviously this study was funded by Pfizer.

Techmom

June 4th, 2013
2:52 pm

The study has interesting implications if there is some truth to the in-utero effects on the baby. Certainly environmental impacts (i.e. eating & activity habits of the family after birth) have a huge, likely larger impact long term but the theories are interesting nonetheless.

Certainly Americans need to get a handle on obesity and eating habits. We eat far too much and far too much crap and aren’t active enough.

FCM

June 4th, 2013
4:38 pm

My mother was always on a tennis court and was tiny. My brother and I are both overweight. We don’t have the time to spend all day on the tennis court like she did. Also she grew (and canned) much of our food, we tend to buy at the store. Convience foods are issue too…she spent all day making spagetti or something…we tend to pick up sauce in a jar.

FCM

June 4th, 2013
6:32 pm

@ Seriously? I know someone who is in that boat with you (or you might be that person)….either way I wish you luck.

tchrmom

June 4th, 2013
7:23 pm

Studies show that not all people with a brain actually use it. To “studying studies”…ADHD is not mythical. Teachers don’t diagnose ADHD, doctors do. Not all children who are active are ADHD and not all ADD children are active. Parents can lead a healthy lifestyle and their children can still have problems. What about those that lead healthy lifestyles and their children have cancer or juvenile diabetes. Only small minds have no room for other explanations than their own.