Genes and lifestyle are well known causes of being overweight and obesity. But there’s a third factor called epigenetics that’s not as well known – and it’s particularly important during pregnancy and the early years of your child’s life.

What is epigenetics?

Your genes are the blueprint for how your body works. There are about 30,000 genes in each cell of your body. Epigenetics is the science of how these genes get switched on and off.

For example, there are genes that set the level of ‘taste preference for high-fat and high-sugar foods and drinks’. However, if your child eats a high-fat and high-sugar diet in the first 2 -3 years of life, this will switch on the above genes in your child to a higher level of preference for these foods and drinks.

The epigenetic process also occurs during pregnancy. So what a pregnant woman does in her life can switch genes on and off in her unborn baby (foetus). In addition, epigenetic changes can be long lasting. They can continue into your child’s adulthood, when it can be much harder to change back. And your child can also pass on these changes to their own children.

What to do

Parents should eat healthy food and drinks and do lots of physical activity so you can:

  • Be a good role model for your child
  • Have a positive affect on your child’s genes through epigenetics

For more information: Speak to your GP, Visit www.kidshealth.org

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