Daily Mail publishes good article, well camouflaged by title.
The Daily Mail Online recently posted an informative article on Epigenetics, Is Audrey Hepburn the key to stopping the obesity epidemic?, by John Naish. Yes, the title makes it sound like the article is about how thin celebrities and role models will surely inspire everyone to get thin! Fortunately, that's not what it's about at all.
Audrey Hepburn experienced the Hunger Winter as a teenager during WWII.
Hepburn’s slight figure — her waist was only 20in — came not from any celeb-style fad diet. It was a legacy of the jaundice, anaemia, respiratory problems and chronic blood disorders she contracted in those desperate days. After a lifetime of quietly suffering frail health, she died in 1993, two months after undergoing an operation for colon cancer. She said of her privations: ‘After living for years under the Germans, you swore you would never complain about anything again.’
Now Dr Carey, a British biology expert and former senior lecturer at Imperial College, London, has written a book in which she suggests Hepburn’s poor health was the result of genetic changes caused by her terrible childhood diet. Such changes are being revealed by the new science of epigenetics.
We are beginning to understand how we are not simply born with genes that are pre-set for life.
The Hunger Winter left adults who survived it with chronic ill health and people who were fetuses at the time with a tendency to store fat and a high risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The most worrying finding is that parents’ poor nutrition can seriously affect the health of their unborn children. This is particularly true of mothers who are malnourished in the first three months of pregnancy. While the hunger winter survivors’ babies tended to be born at a normal size, they often inherited a lifetime problem: their obesity rates are much higher than normal.
Some theories suggest that when a baby suffers malnutrition in the womb, a survival mechanism kicks in that pre-sets its metabolism in preparation for being born into a world of famine and starvation...
Some of these effects even seem to be present in the children of this group — the grandchildren of the original hunger winter survivors. Not only were the children’s genes changed epigenetically, but those harmful changes have been passed on through two generations.
Dr. Carey's book: The Epigenetics Revolution, subtitled "How modern biology is rewriting our understanding of genetics, disease and inheritance." isn't focused on the genetics of obesity, and there's a more conventional review of it here, in the Guardian.
However, Mr. Naish comments intelligently on the material that concerns body size, restates some things that have been kicking around the fatosphere for a while, and offers some insight on the mutability of our genetic inheritance.
In light of this, I'm amazed that fat women are still being advised to avoid weight gain during pregnancy, when attempting to do so could effectively expose their fetuses to famine conditions. Why are medical recommendations based on an assumption that well nourished fetuses, babies and children become fat, while the opposite appears to be the case?