Some people contend that a lot of the disease and conditions that people think of as hereditary actually have nothing to do with your genes, and everything to do with how you were carried and raised and also on how you then choose to carry and raise your children. These people reference the growing population of obese children in this country. Could it really be that they are inheriting the “gene” to be overweight? If that was the case, why are there so many more overweight people today than in previous generations?

One of the most common conditions rising in childhood is metabolic syndrome. This is a condition that features hypertension, obesity, glucose intolerance, and the warning symptoms of diabetes. Children who develop this condition are much more likely to cope with obesity and diabetes throughout life. While there are many contributing factors to metabolic syndrome, studies have indicated one of the most serious is maternal obesity in pregnancy and gestational diabetes. Mothers who cope with these conditions throughout pregnancy are likely to give birth to children predisposed to developing metabolic syndrome. Also indicative of a predisposition to this condition is birth weight. Babies born heavier than is expected for gestational age are more likely to develop the condition than those who are born at expected weights.

The significance of these findings is quite serious. As people who are obese in childhood are more likely to be overweight throughout their lives, and parents who are obese are more likely to raise children who are obese, the concept of metabolic syndrome and obesity being strongly influenced by the weight and health of the mother during pregnancy has strong implications for the perpetuation of these serious health problems throughout generations. Researchers are concerned that people consider conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension largely unavoidable due to the concept of heredity when in reality these conditions are largely unavoidable. The tendencies that develop risk factors for these conditions are tremendously influenced by parents and strongly linked to pre-birth conditions. This does not mean, however, that they are set in stone.

Source: Boney, Charlotte et al. Metabolic Syndrome in Childhood: Association with Birth Weight, Maternal Obesity, and Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Volume 115, Issue 3 March 1, 2005.

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