Thursday, 27 September 2012

More from Fat, Fate & Disease

More nuggets from Fat, Fate & Disease

Some (ongoing) research conducted by Southampton University which has followed several hundred children from birth, turns up some further interesting epigenetic effects - and it is bad news for Low Carb,
  • "The Southampton studies have shown clearly that birthweight is not the most important factor in setting the risk of chronic disease.  The thickness of the carotid artery of a child at nine years of age, an early and highly objective marker of risk of cardiovascular disease, was statistically related to low carbohydrate intake by the mother in late pregnancy, and this factor was independent of the child's birthweight."
Birth order seems to be a significant factor in obesity, with the first-born at a greater risk.  This is important as child mortality falls, families comprise fewer children and so more of the planet are 'first-born'.  In China this is particularly significant with its one-child policy,
  • "In the early 1950s, a doctor in Motherwell in southern Scotland made substantial recommendations about the diet that his women patients should eat during pregnancy.  The offspring were studied until they were 30...[Southampton University researchers] analysed how fat these 30-year-olds were from the point of view of whether they were first-born or not...those who were first-born have about 25 percent more body fat than those who were second or subsequent children.  More recently, data from Cesar Victora's group in Brazil have shown that first-born children are more likely to have higher blood pressure later." 
The Southampton research program mentioned above has gone in to significant analysis of body composition,
  • "In our first study we found that the degree of epigenetic change measured at birth in one particular gene, associated with the control of fat metabolism, explained about 25 per cent of the differences in body fat between children nine years later"
 This particular research was repeated in a second birth cohort study and supported the idea that methylation of a gene at one site determine likelihood of becoming obese more than genetic variation.  This methylation was identified within the umbilical cord (which had been sampled as part of the study), and firmly establishes the relationship between mother's diet and child's physiology.

Gut flora is another theme explored in the book,
  • "Generally these bugs inside our bodies are very useful.  They help by predigesting our food and play a major role in determining our nutrition and our metabolic health.  We know that people with diabetes have different patterns of gut bacteria.  We also know that how we develop this internal family of gut bacteria influences whether we get allergies..."
A quick aside here.  Just think how rapidly generations of bacteria pass in a single year of human life.  Now consider the fact that they are evolving and adapting to their environment (YOUR gut).  So now we can see a feedback mechanism; that your nutrition in particular,  and also your pattern of energy expenditure (and the hormonal milieu that follows), may well be affecting the epigenetics of your gut flora!  This change in gut flora may affect YOUR epigenetics.  Pretty incredible stuff.

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