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Obese Dads Increase Offspring’s Risk of Disease

A recent study published in the journal BMC Medicine suggests that obesity in parents, particularly the father, may be related to an increased risk of developing certain cancers in their children.

The research team led by Adelheid Soubry, PhD, associate of Duke Cancer Institute wanted to determine the link between obesity in parents and changes in DNA methylation at the IGF2 (insulin-like growth factor 2) gene in their offspring. DNA methylation regulates the activity of certain genes and a decrease in this process has been associated with higher risk of cancer development such as ovarian and colorectal cancers.

The study involved families enrolled in NEST (Newborn Epigenetics Study), a research program developed to test the influence of environmental exposures on newborn’s genetic profile. Information about the parents was gathered using medical records and questionnaires followed by an examination of DNA from the umbilical cord of 79 newborns to ascertain the possible associations of parental obesity prior to conception with the DNA methylation patterns of the offspring.

Results of the study revealed that the DNA methylation at the IGF2 gene of the offspring of obese fathers was considerably lower versus those in the offspring of non-obese fathers. This therefore suggests that parental obesity may be linked with a higher risk of children developing diseases like cancer.

However, the researchers noted that conditions relative to obesity that were not measured in the study such as diabetes or a certain diet may have brought about the changes in DNA methylation.

An ongoing study is being conducted to further investigate if the changes in DNA methylation will remain as the children mature. According to Soubry, the study is a crucial step in analyzing the effects of environmental exposure on children not only through the mothers but through the fathers as well.


Duke University Medical Center. Obesity in dads may be associated with offspring’s increased risk of disease. ScienceDaily




Posted in: News Briefs, Obesity, Obesity in Children

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