It makes sense that obesity tends to run in families, right?
When parents and children share genes, and eat similar sorts of foods, naturally you’d expect their bodies to end up looking roughly similar.
More and more research suggests that another factor is also at play. When an obese woman becomes pregnant, there are subtle abnormalities operating at cellular and sub-cellular levels which influence aspects of fertilisation, embryo implantation, placental development and delivery of nutrients to the fetus. Independent of genes and lifestyle, these act to ‘program’ aspects of the baby’s development which predispose them to developing obesity as a child and adult.
Obesity in fathers also weighs in, if you’ll forgive the pun. Sperm in obese men carry information outside of the genes themselves, but which also predispose offspring to developing obesity.
The bottom line is that even if you don’t have a family history of obesity, and you eat a healthy diet, if one or both partners are very overweight when you make a baby it may have a different growth pattern compared to if both parents have a body mass index in the normal range.
[photo thanks to Beverly & Pack on flickr]