LEICESTER, England, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- In both rats and humans, what a mother-to-be eats impacts how her child stores fats later, researchers in Britain said.
Professor Anne Willis of the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester said storing fats in the right areas of the body is important because otherwise they can accumulate in places like the liver and muscle where they are more likely to lead to disease.
"One of the ways that our bodies cope with a rich modern western diet is by storing excess calories in fat cells," Willis said in a statement. "When these cells aren't able to absorb the excess then fats get deposited in other places, like the liver, where they are much more dangerous and can lead to type 2 diabetes."
The research team found that this process is controlled by a molecule called miR-483-3p. Willis and colleagues found that miR-483-3p was produced at higher levels in individuals who had experienced a poor diet in their mother's wombs than those who were better nourished.
When pregnant rats were fed low protein diets their offspring had higher levels of miR-483-3p. This led to them developing smaller fat cells and left them less able to store fats in adulthood. These rats were less likely to get fat when fed a high calorie diet but were at a higher risk of developing diabetes
The findings were published in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation.