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Junk food gets encoded in DNA of future children, scientists discover

Published time: July 08, 2014 14:29
Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

The next time you wolf down that Big Mac with large fries consider you may be affecting more than your own waistline. Scientists now say an unhealthy diet can be encoded into DNA, which is passed down to future generations.

By now, most people have heard various negative things about a Western diet: it is too fatty, too salty and too sugary. It can cause problems to the immune system, disturb the chemical makeup of the stomach, and, perhaps the most obvious of all symptoms, lead to obesity.

Now, a study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Maryland has provided yet another reason to drive past your favorite drive thru window: the deleterious effects of a poor diet can leave a mark on the DNA, passing along the genes to your offspring.

The harmful effects of an unhealthy diet can “actually stretch across generations,” wrote Ian Myles, author of the study, which appeared in Nutrition Journal.

Image from nutritionj.com

Myles demonstrated that a mother’s eating habits “may potentially shape her child’s flavor preferences even before birth, potentially skewing their palette towards anything from vegetables to sugary sweets.” Passing along the proverbial sweet tooth could contribute to a child’s propensity to become obese at some point in his or her life.

“When the mother’s diet causes a harmful imbalance of her bacteria, she passes this imbalance on to her child and thus fails to present the ideal commensals for a proper immune education during her child’s most critical developmental window,” according to the study.

This developmental imbalance leaves the baby’s immune system “poorly trained to fight off infections and encourages autoimmune and allergic diseases.”

Myles cautioned that the father’s dietary choices in life also play an important role in the health of offspring.

The paternal DNA “can also be inherited by the offspring and could alter early development of the immune system [52],” according to the study. “Epigenetic changes in DNA are, in effect, cellular memory; these changes prevent dividing pancreas cells from becoming cells of the kidney or any other organ.”

Reuters / Simon Newman

Myles concludes that only a radical change of lifestyle will stop the transfer of stained DNA to future generations of babies. He also warned on the apparent uselessness of commercial extracts as a means of countering a poor diet.

“The benefits of dietary modification over supplementation is furthered by evidence showing that dietary supplementation does not increase longevity, indicating that…commercial interventions such as tea or berry extracts are unlikely to counteract poor dietary habits,” he advised.

Myles advised that people should eliminate sugar and fat in processed form from their diets and move to fresh sources of protein – and fat – such as fish and meat.

Image from nutritionj.com

Comments (29)

 

Poppy Potts 26.07.2014 19:42

All I can say is the people who get paid to come up with this rubbish are getting paid for doing something that is totally worthless information. Why should we care about this stuff? We are bombarded with this type of cra p all the time, its no wonder everyone is losing their minds.

 

Amy D 10.07.2014 13:27

Hmmm... I don't know what to think about this. I ate donuts and drank pop during my pregnancy. My daughter isn't a fan of either of them, she prefers fruits and veggies. I didn't eat much meat except for chicken during my pregnancy, and my daughter prefers beef. She is overweight even though she eats clean and healthy with a few junk snacks, but she's mostly a fruit and veggie eater. With her being quite overweight, she also has only been sick once and that was when she was 2 years old. This child has a strong immune system.
I'm not sure if I believe this as my daughter doesn't crave sweets and that's what I ate

 

Barbara Johns 10.07.2014 12:23

True. I had a child in my twenties. Ate rubbish during pregnancy. And now even though I changed my ways she is obese. In my thirty's I had a second child. She is skinny with a six pack of muscles on her belly. I ate no take away or soda and so forth during that pregnancy. older child was always sick and suffered with lethargy. Youngest hardly ever. I believe there is something in this.

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