Smoking is bad news, particularly when expecting a baby. In fact, new research has found that smoking during pregnancy increases the chances of childhood obesity…

Smoking and obesity are two of the biggest public concerns facing populations around the world.

The rates of childhood obesity have been and are continuing to increase. This means that environmental factors beyond diet, exercise, and genetics must be contributing.

It has been long understood that babies born to mothers who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy are at increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight. However, more recent research has shown that a mother smoking whilst pregnant can result in a baby becoming obese.

Smoking kills 121 people a day in SA

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What is the reason for this phenomenon?

Using tissue which is normally discarded following birth, lead author Leryn Reynolds, Ph.D. and colleagues examined potential reasons.

Chemerin is a protein produced by fat cells and has been found to be present in higher levels in the blood of obese people.

The research team used the discarded foreskins of recently circumcised newborn males as a surrogate tissue to study chemerin levels in neonates exposed to cigarette smoke during pregnancy.

This skin was used as it is safe and simple to collect, and the research team had previously demonstrated it to have similar properties to other tissues (like fat) which would have been too invasive to collect from babies.

The results showed that chemerin was more prevalent in the skin of infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy.

Smoking in pregnancy changes babies’ genes

More detailed analysis suggested that this increased expression corresponded with reduced DNA methylation, which is one mechanism which regulates the expression of chemerin. This protein is associated with obesity and therefore increased expression could increase the likelihood of a baby becoming obese.

These results thus suggest that smoking in pregnancy could be leading to changes in the regulation of genes which play an important role in fat cell development and obesity.

If you’re thinking of having a baby and haven’t quit smoking yet, now you have another reason to stamp out the unhealthy habit.

Source: Smoking during pregnancy increases chemerin expression in neonatal tissue https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/EP087307

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