TUESDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- Weight-loss operations in
women could be a genetic bonus for the health of their future
children, a new study suggests.
Researchers found differences in the activity of genes in
children born to women after they'd had gastric bypass surgery
compared to their siblings born before surgery. The changes suggest
that the kids born after surgery, to thinner mothers, will fare
better in terms of heart health because of benefits gained in the
"It appears that there's an effect that is transmitted to the next generation," said study co-author Marie-Claude Vohl, a professor at Laval University in Quebec City. "This may have some consequence later in life for the health of the children."
The study isn't definitive, and researchers don't know exactly
how much the health of kids may be affected by being born to a
thinner mother. It's also not clear if there's something unique
about weight-loss surgery or if the key is to simply drop
Weight-loss surgery, which aims to limit the amount of food that
patients can eat, is no simple matter. It's expensive, involves
risk and is not always covered by insurance. However, severe
obesity is itself a major health risk.
In the new study, researchers examined the genetic makeup of 50
children who were born to 20 mothers before or after they underwent
gastric bypass surgery.
The researchers suspected that the genes of children born after
surgery would act differently than those born before. They found
several thousand genes that did just that, and the differences in
the post-surgery children suggest they're in better shape
As far as physical differences, children born to mothers before
weight-loss surgery weighed more and had greater waist and hip
girth compared to the others. Children born to mothers after weight
loss-surgery had better fasting insulin levels and lower blood
"It's more evidence that the benefits of gastric bypass surgery extend beyond the original aim of weight loss," said Dr. Francesco Rubino, a metabolic and bariatric surgeon with the Catholic University of Rome, who was not involved with the study. Other research has linked weight-loss surgery, in some cases, to major improvements in diabetes.
What's going on? It's not a matter of the mothers transferring
different genes to the children based on whether they'd had
surgery. Instead, weight-loss surgery seems to affect the activity
of the genes in the children's bodies even outside the womb, he
Dr. Edward Phillips, vice chair of the department of surgery at
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles, said it's a mystery
how that might happen.
"If you're a fetus, you're bathed in a bunch of chemicals and hormones," Phillips said. "But when you're out in the real world, why wouldn't your own genes go back to the basic set of what they were supposed to be?"
Could weight-loss surgery in fathers have a similar effect on
their subsequent children? Researchers don't know. There are other
questions too. Might the children born after their mothers had
surgery be exposed to a different kind of environment than their
older siblings, especially in regard to food? Could that affect how
their genes act?
Phillips said those questions need to be answered. But, he said,
this is still "an exciting early study" that opens the door toward
greater understanding of genes and weight.
The study appeared online May 27 in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For more about
gastric bypass surgery, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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