Follow me on

Newborns of obese parents have altered DNA methylation patterns at imprinted genes

Regular readers will be well aware of the accumulating data on the role of maternal (and perhaps paternal) obesity on the developing fetus that can result in a lifelong predisposition for obesity in the offspring.

Now a study by Soubry and colleagues form the University of Leuven, Belgium, published in the International Journal of Obesity, provides evidence of epigenetic modification on key genes involved in human development in the offspring of obese parents.

sharma-obesity-pregnancy5The study examined parental preconceptional obesity in relation to DNA methylation profiles in newborns at multiple human imprinted genes important in normal growth and development (MEG3, MEST, PEG3, PLAGL1, SGCE/PEG10, and NNAT).

After adjusting for potential confounders and cluster effects, paternal obesity was significantly associated with lower methylation levels at the MEST, PEG3, and NNAT genes.

From these studies, the authors conclude that, altered methylation may occur at multiple imprint regulatory regions in children born to obese parents, compared to children born to non-obese parents.

Thus, their data suggests a preconceptional influence of parental life-style or overnutrition on the reprogramming of imprint marks during gametogenesis.

Interestingly enough, their data also suggests that developing sperm may well be susceptible to environmental insults (in this case weight gain).

These findings are of considerable importance as other evidence suggests that the acquired imprint instability may be carried on to the next generation and increase the risk for chronic diseases such as obesity in adulthood.

Montreal, QC

ResearchBlogging.orgSoubry A, Murphy SK, Wang F, Huang Z, Vidal AC, Fuemmeler BF, Kurtzberg J, Murtha A, Jirtle RL, Schildkraut JM, & Hoyo C (2013). Newborns of obese parents have altered DNA methylation patterns at imprinted genes. International journal of obesity (2005) PMID: 24158121




  1. How very depressing; more things to feel guilty about as a parent. I do hope that if this is true and my children inherited my propensity for obesity, they also inherited my tenacity, drive and focus. If they are destined to fight obesity, they will need to learn early that your greatest adversary can also be your most profound teacher. I do not wish for them to encounter a life of peaceful acceptance, but a struggle that leads them to more fully realize their human potential and unconquerable strength. May they encounter self-knowledge in each battle they face, and only achieve peace and serenity through wisdom rather than ease. Fighting obesity has certainly been my greatest battle and a source of tremendous empowerment. It has also served as the most humbling of experiences and has increased my capacity to experience compassion.

    Of course this also puts a greater responsibility on my shoulders to teach them proper eating, moving and living practices that will help them maintain their health, but this has always been my intention as a parent; this study only confirms to me the importance of my responsibilities. It is my intention to teach these tough lessons through example and overt explanation, but most importantly through active engagement in their lives. Thank you for the reminder to stay vigilant.

    Post a Reply
  2. Excellent post. I am another of those people who has to be extra careful due to having an easier time putting on weight and a harder time getting it off than most individuals I know. Luckily, I usually have managed to stay out of the obese category but have been more often in the overweight than the normal by poundage, though that includes 6 of my 63 years in which I was seriously into natural weight training (14.5″ solid upper arms flexed at my peak) and a year about a quarter century before the weight training when I studied martial arts, both times with high weight from muscle rather than fat.

    It is no lie that there definitely are those of us who have to be more careful than others, and in my case obesity was only on my mother’s side. Like her I began the battle in my older teens, not having had problems before then.

    My cousin a few years older than me is from a family that has those with obesity on both sides and she is morbidly obese, having been so most of her life, and as a child was overweight. For her the attempts at weight control are much harder than for me and always have been, but in recent years she finally reached acceptance and is working on other ways to optimize her health as a heavy person.

    As my husband puts it, I am in the Dr. Sharma Fan Club! Excellent post! Those who are in my type of category can work diligently on trying to have their weight under control as the first part of planning a pregnancy. Although hard on the parents it can be their first gift to their children. This is something that physicians should discuss with patients before pregnancy. A good start may be take-home brochures in gynecologists’ and internists’ offices.

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *