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Obesity can be passed to children

20th July 2010

People who overeat and consume the wrong types of fats not only end up being obese, but pass obesity onto their children, according to a recent French study.

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The finding may shed light on why obesity is now more prominent in richer nations.

According to the researchers, people who are obese can pass obesity onto their children simply by the types of fats they eat.

Some people may think that substituting unsaturated fats based on sunflower, soy, or other vegetables is best, but the researchers found that this is not the case.

Out of all the fats the researchers studied, consuming the right amount of omega-6 fatty acid was the most important factor in staying healthy and keeping a proper weight.

While consuming omega-6 as well as omega-3 is very important, most people consume far too little omega-3 fatty acid.

The scientists made reference to data that showed people's consumption of omega-6 had risen sharply in the past forty years.

In the past forty years, people in Europe, the US, and other industrialised countries have begun to consume 250% more omega-6 fatty acids, and about 40% fewer omega-3s.

As a consequence, the fat distribution of women's breast milk has changed drastically, and people have become used to getting low levels of omega-3 from a very early age.

Lead researcher Gerard Ailhaud, a biochemist at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, said that the study was the first time that researchers had linked omega fatty acids to a trans-generational increase in obesity.

He said that the omega-6 in people's diets today was like a fat-producing bomb.

The researchers also said that families with a pattern of excessive weight gain do not have obesity in their genes.

Ailhaud said that such families had a latent capacity in their genes to be obese, which their diets brought into expression, which is known as an 'epigenetic' process.

He said that his test rats did not have modified genomes, but that the amounts and types of fat the rats were given made a big difference in how certain genes were expressed.

For the study, the researchers fed their mice a diet consisting of 35% fat, with a high omega-6 fatty acid content.

When the researchers fed this diet to four generations of mice, they found that the mice became progressively fatter.

The mice also developed resistance to insulin, making them susceptible to type 2 diabetes.

Ailhaud said that feeding cattle grain and feed instead of simply feeding them grass also partly explained people's drop in levels of omega-3.

Beef from cows raised on grass is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, although   cows that eat feed grow more quickly and have more delicious meat.

Corn-raised cattle are the most expensive beef worldwide, but Ailhaud said that corn was very high in omega-6 fatty acids.

He said that, if people wanted to raise cattle that would be healthier for consumers, they should add a little bit of flaxseed to the feed.

Earlier studies have also shown that having a large imbalance in omega fatty acids constitutes a risk factor for heart disease.

 


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