How smoking during pregnancy affects babies

How smoking during pregnancy affects babies
Photo: ANI

Washington: Did you know, smoking during pregnancy can increase the likelihood of your kid becoming obese?
These are the findings of a study recently published in Experimental Physiology.

The research examined potential reasons for this phenomenon, using a tissue, which is normally discarded following birth.

The rate at which childhood obesity is on the rise indicates that environmental factors beyond diet, exercise, and genetics could be the reasons contributing for the weight gain.

As such, an understanding of some mechanisms behind smoking-related health conditions could help act as a springboard for the development of effective treatments.

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.

Lead author Leryn Reynolds and colleagues set out to uncover what mechanisms might contribute to this.

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.

The 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.