Bypassing Genetic Obesity Genes?

obesityFact. Obese mothers tend to have kids who themselves will become obese.

Fact. In 2012, 35.7% of US adults and 16.9% of US children age 2 to 19 were obese, according to the CDC

Fact. Half of all U.S. adults will be obese by 2030 unless they change their ways, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Fact. Obesity raises the risk of numerous diseases, from type 2 diabetes to endometrial cancer, chronic heart disease and stroke.

So we were extremely interested to learn of new research that suggests the unhealthy cycle could be broken by weight-loss surgery.  In a first-of-a-kind study, Canadian researchers tested children born to obese women prior to weight loss surgery and their siblings conceived afterward.

thin_fatThe surprising results?  Kids born after mom lost lots of weight were slimmer than their siblings. They also had fewer risk factors for developing diabetes or heart disease.

Even 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.

Although diet and exercise will play a huge role in how fit the younger siblings will continue to be, the findings suggest the children born to mothers who have undergone weight loss surgery might have an advantage.

The impact on the genes, you will see the impact for the rest of your life,” predicts lead researcher Dr. Marie-Claude Vohl of Laval University in Quebec City.

gastric bypassSo why would there be a difference? Clearly weight loss surgery doesn’t change a womans’ genes.  However, it seems as if either the surgery or more likely the subsequent weight loss can change how certain genes operate in her child’s body. The researchers suggest that factors inside the womb seem to affect the chemical  ‘dimmer switches’ that make the fetus’ genes speed up or slow down or switch on and off.

Dr. Susan Murphy of Duke University wasn’t involved in the research 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.

The research has implications far beyond the relatively few women who undergo gastric bypass surgery before having a baby. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than half of pregnant women are overweight or obese. Tackling obesity before or during pregnancy can provide a lasting benefit for both mother and baby.

It’s not just a matter of how much moms weigh when they conceive, gaining too much weight during pregnancy increases the child’s risk of eventually developing obesity and diabetes. Overweight mothers have higher levels of sugar and fat in the bloodstream, which in turn makes it to the womb.

How much weight loss is needed to have a healthy baby?

pregnant and obeseIn the study, researchers took blood samples from children born to 20 women before and after the complex gastric bypass surgery, who, on average, lost about 100 pounds. They compared differences in more than 5,600 genes between the younger and older siblings and 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 the children born after mom’s surgery really get lasting benefits. 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.

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Scientists Step up to the Plate in the Fight Against ALS

Until this week, most medical text books and online publications agreed that in 90- 95% of  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases, the disease occurs at random with no clearly associated risk factors.

Now, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, scientists have discovered two proteins that can conspire to promote the invariably fatal neurological disease.

ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive, devastating neurodegenerative disorder that results in progressive loss of motor function and ultimately death.

Jean-Pierre Julien and colleagues at Laval University in Quebec now find that a protein called TDP-43 binds to an inflammatory protein called NF-kB p65 in the spinal cords of ALS patients but not of healthy individuals.

TDP-43 and p65 were also more abundant in ALS than healthy spinal cords.  It appears that TDP-43 and p65 cooperate to ramp up production of factors capable of promoting inflammation and killing nearby neurons.

Treatment of TDP-43 mice with Withaferin A, an inhibitor of NF-κB activity, reduced neuron loss and denervation and ALS disease symptoms.

These findings highlight p65 as a potential therapeutic target for this debilitating disorder which currently affects as many as 20,000-30,000 people in the United States and the additional 5,000 people who will be diagnosed with the disease each year. ALS is one of the most common neuromuscular diseases affecting people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. ALS most commonly strikes between 40 and 60 years of age, and men are affected more often than women.

SRxA’s Word on Health will be following this story and bringing you news on further advances in the fight against ALS, as they break.