A new study published in the journal Endocrinology reports that the environment in which a child lives is an equal or stronger force in determining obesity than a mothers poor diet during pregnancy, which previously was considered a major cause for their children's poor diets and related health problems.
In the study, at Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences of Osteopathic Medicine, researchers learned that having too many food choices increases the obesity problem and that having a choice of a high-fat and low fat diet does not help but can result in the children consuming even more food.
The study, which was conducted with mice, is the first of its kind to look at this issue in terms of mimicking a real world environment where people have a choice between fattening foods or healthy, low-fat foods. It will help inform researchers on how a humans natural environment affects food choices and weight.
For the study, mothers were divided into two sets one set was given a high-fat diet and the other a low-fat diet. Their children were given a diet that was either high fat, low fat or a choice of foods.
The offspring that had a choice of high or low-fat foods had an increase in body weight, body fat, and glucose levels.
Those on a low-fat diet showed no such negative impacts. They did, however, have a higher energy expenditure compared to those on low- or high-fat diets. The mice burned more energy as they wandered around and evaluated which food they were going to eat.
Having a choice of either a high-fat or low-fat diet can lead to overeating. It is not unlikely that if someone had the choice of healthy and fatty foods in a grocery store they may pick both, which leads to a higher daily fat intake.
The authors believe that if low-fat foods are more readily available, or priced competitively with high-fat and unhealthy foods, even babies born to overweight mothers could counter their prenatal environment and avoid being overweight themselves.
Renee Prater, one of the study authors and the associate dean for curriculum, assessment and medical education at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, says this study is central to the philosophies of osteopathic medicine, which promote wellness and preventive care in medicine. This helps to show that if you make good choices, you can overcome some of your natural tendencies and be healthier in the long-run," she said.
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