The study, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is published March 22 in the journal AJP-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.
The study also suggests that diet-induced heart changes in offspring are not only transmitted to offspring by their mothers. Obese mothers' male offspring that mated with healthy females fed a normal diet also passed on the same heart problems. The specific changes to the heart in these offspring were evident in changes to the heart muscle cells' energy factories, called mitochondria.
Obesity - Mothers - Risk - Heart - Problems
"We know that obesity in pregnant mothers raises the risk of future heart problems for her children," said co-senior author Kelle H. Moley, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology. "But we have shown, at least in mice, that these heart problems don't stop with a single generation. They are passed down by both the male and female offspring of obese mothers, even when the offspring eat a normal diet. This was a bit of a surprise -- problems with heart mitochondria seemed likely to be passed down only through females, through the mitochondrial DNA present in the egg that we inherit only from our mothers.
"Now that we've shown that mouse fathers pass this down as well, we have to start studying changes in the DNA of the nucleus in both the egg and the sperm to make sure we understand all the contributing factors," she said.
Researchers - Heart - Problems - Mouse - Diet
Notably, the researchers found multigenerational heart problems, even when the mouse offspring were not obese and ate a normal diet throughout their lives. Though perhaps revealing some effects of a healthy diet, the severity of the heart problems diminished slightly over the generations of mice that ate standard chow diets, the researchers noted.
The heart abnormalities induced by maternal obesity included cardiac mitochondria that appeared small and fragmented and that consumed less oxygen than...
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