WASHINGTON (AP) -- Obese mothers tend to have kids who become obese. Now provocative research suggests weight-loss surgery may help break that unhealthy cycle in an unexpected way -- by affecting how their children's genes behave.
In a first-of-a-kind study, Canadian researchers tested children born to obese women, plus their brothers and sisters who were conceived after the mother had obesity surgery. Youngsters born after mom lost lots of weight were slimmer than their siblings. They also had fewer risk factors for diabetes or heart disease later in life.
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.
It's not that mom passed on different genes, but how those genes operate in her child's body. Researchers say factors inside the womb seem to affect the dimmer switches that develop on the genes of a fetus -- chemical changes that make genes speed up or slow down or switch on and off. That in turn can greatly influence health.
The findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.