A recent study shows that a mothers' obesity may affect the biological age of her newborn child. This study, conducted at Hasselt University in Belgium, associates a shorter telomere length (located in the cells of the newborn) with the obesity of their mother. Researchers that conducted this study used a sample of 743 mothers, ranging from the age of 17 to 44, The researchers were able to use samples of umbilical cord blood obtained from each newborn, directly after their delivery.
Biological age is essentially the number of times a cell will be able to divide in its lifetime, which is typically determined by the length of the telomeres in the cells of our bodies. Telomeres are vital to have in a person's genome, given that they protect chromosomes from degrading; they are the structures at the ends of chromosomes. Given this benefit, cells then have a more likely chance of dividing throughout their lifetime depending on the length of the telomere that ends the chromosome in which it is attempting to divide.
After observing all of the data gathered throughout this study, it remained prevalent that newborns whose mothers were not considered obese had longer telomeres versus newborns who had mothers that were indeed considered obese. In fact, only a single point increase in a mother's body mass index, or ones' weight-to-height ratio, was linked with newborns whose telomeres were shortened by about fifty base pairs considered to the average newborn's telomere length. Although it is normal for telomeres to shorten as people age, the rate at which telomeres shorten does not remain consistent between individuals. The fifty base pair shortage in these newborns is actually equal to the amount of base pairs an adult would lose on average in only a bit over a year.
According to previously done studies, the length of telomeres in adults may be associated with some age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and increased mortality; however, studies on the impacts of telomere length in newborns and children still remains limited. This study also does not take into account the body mass index, or the obesity of the paternal figure, which also may play a part in the length of the telomeres. Several factors have been ruled out to lead to the length of the telomeres; however, this is being further looked into.
I am very curious to see how this study will continue, and what further findings these researchers may have. I think it would be extremely important to learn about the influence of telomere length in newborns and children, given the associated health risks in adults. I also am very curious to see what role the paternal BMI, or possible other factors, will play in the deciding of the length of the newborn's telomeres.