Does Maternal Obesity Affect the Gut Microbiome of the Offspring?Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Yesterday, I blogged about the Maternal Resource Hypothesis, proposed by Edward Archer, as a driver of childhood obesity.
Today’s post is about another interesting finding by Jeffrey Galley and colleagues from Ohio State University, published in PLOS one, suggesting that maternal obesity may be associated with differences in the gut microbiome in children in early life.
The researchers compared the gut bugs from fecal samples from children 18–27 months of age (n = 77) born to obese or non-obese mothers.
At least in women of higher socioeconomic status, offspring of obese mothers showed significant differences in their gut bacteriome from those of non-obese mothers in a manner that has been previously linked to differences in weight and diet (differences were noted in the abundances of Faecalibacterium spp., Eubacterium spp., Oscillibacter spp., and Blautia spp).
While these findings were limited to women of higher socioeconomic status, the authors do not have a ready explanation for these findings.
Their best guess is that perhaps the etiology of obesity may differ between women of higher and lower socioeconomic status and it may well be that the extent to which maternal obesity confers measureable changes to the gut microbiome of offspring may differ based on the etiology of maternal obesity.
It is unlikely that dietary differences explain these findings:
“In our sample, we found no differences in the children from obese and non-obese mothers in terms of breastfeeding behavior, age at which solid foods were introduced, or the current frequency of consumption of meat, vegetables, and cereals/grains regardless of maternal SES. This suggests that diet did not explain the observed differences in the children’s gut microbiome related to maternal obesity and SES.”
Indeed, the authors are quick to point out that further research is needed to better understand the relevance of the observed differences in gut microbiome composition for weight trajectory over the life course of the offspring:
“The potential role of the gut microbiome in this intergenerational transmission of obesity risk warrants further attention. In particular, the stability of such effects into later childhood and adolescence, the clinical relevance of abundances of specific bacteria in conferring risk for obesity, and the ultimate impact of early life microbial profiles on long-term weight trajectory remains to be explicated.”
Nevertheless, these findings are intriguing in that they suggest a link between maternal obesity and the possible transmission of obesogenic microbes to their offspring.
Galley JD, Bailey M, Kamp Dush C, Schoppe-Sullivan S, & Christian LM (2014). Maternal obesity is associated with alterations in the gut microbiome in toddlers. PloS one, 9 (11) PMID: 25409177