According to new research, babies born to overweight mothers are more likely to have aging-related diseases in the future
A new study from Belgium has found that babies born to overweight mothers may be biologically older than babies born to mothers of a normal weight, reports Live Science. The study found that a mother’s body mass index (BMI) was linked to shorter telomere lengths in the baby’s chromosomes.
“Compared with newborns of mothers with a normal BMI, newborns of women with obesity are older on a molecular level, because shortened telomere lengths mean that their cells have shorter lifespans,” study co-author Tim Nawrot said in a press release. “So maintaining a healthy BMI during a woman’s reproductive age may promote molecular longevity in the offspring.”
What are telomeres?
Telomeres are found at the ends of chromosomes, and essentially, they’re what keep our cells from deteriorating. “They’re like the plastic ends on our shoelaces,” explained Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Associate Professor Jeffrey Craig (who was not involved in the study) to The Conversation.
As people age, their telomeres naturally shorten—but not at the same rate. The longer a person’s telomeres are, the more times a cell can divide. “From very early on in our development, our telomeres start to shorten,” Craig continues. “When we age, our telomeres shorten and when they get very short, our chromosomes start to fray and come apart, and then our cells die.”
On the next page: read about the study, its findings, and what it means for parents.