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Individuals whose mothers ate a poor diet during pregnancy are more likely to receive a positive HbA1c test for diabetes, according to a new study from a team of British researchers.
In laboratory testing on mice, the team found that the offspring of mice fed unhealthy diets had lower expression levels of a gene known as Hnf4a. This gene plays an important role in development of specialized cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. When the gene is not present, insulin production drops, increasing the odds of developing diabetes.
The findings complement earlier studies, which showed that Hnf4a plays an important role in the development of the pancreas. However, it was not previously known that a mother's diet could impact the way this gene is expressed, the researchers said.
"What is most exciting about these findings is that we are now starting to really understand how nutrition during the first nine months of life spent in the womb shape our long term health by influencing how the cells in our body age," said Susan Ozanne, the University of Cambridge researcher who led the investigation.
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