Your Mom Is Why You're Fat

Obesity is at an epidemic stage in America. It's slowly killing a huge number of people and it's costing tons of money. Consider this, an obese patient costs $443 more dollars per inpatient visit than a person at a healthy weight. In total, that costs the country billions a year. Many people and programs have considered different ways to lower the obesity rate, from championing exercise to surgical procedures. It turns out, it's not the obese we need to target, it's their moms.

What should expectant mothers avoid? The same thing everyone should avoid: A diet high in carbohydrate (such as sugars) and high saturated fat. What makes the goose fat also makes the gander fat.

The study, which will appear in Diabetes, found that a mother's diet while pregnant can alter her child's DNA—called epigenetic change—to make the child more susceptible to obesity. It doesn't matter whether the mother herself is skinny or fat, simply what she eats during the early stages of pregnancy. It means that we could perhaps spend money and effort more wisely by making sure pregnant women don't create obese-prone babies to start with. Surely, there are other causes for obesity, and mothers who eat badly during pregnancy might simply feed their kids crap to begin with. But anything that can alter a baby's DNA should probably be avoided if you're pregnant—and might be something you want to avoid in your daily life whether you're expecting or not.

Image from Flickr user mauricesvay

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  • Lynn

    How about blaming our culture for promoting the idea that pregnancy causes food cravings? Not all cultures believe this. We might also consider the Madonna/ whore thing men have going. Men are more likely to kill their wives during pregnancy. It is easy to see that not all women get the nurturing support they require to maintain healthy habits during pregnancy. Kindness is in short supply in this world. We are lucky that all most women turn to is unhealthy food.

  • J L

    I'm sure there are plenty of mother child relationships out there that defy this... but on average I believe this to be a reasonable truth... People that dislike it probably have fat moms.. or are fat themselves.  All the angry chubs are pissed because they (or their moOm) made crappy decisions in life.  Fatties are great evidence that our nation is way under-worked and WAY over paid.  Holy crap fat is nasty.

  • Jonathan

    @Kylie The comment about the goose and gander is an expression: What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • Jonathan

    @Kylie I'm not sure where you learned animal terminology but a gander is a group of geese, not a male goose. There is no mention of a gosling in the article either so I'm not sure how that is relevant. I'm pretty sure you should stick with health a beauty products on facebook because you might hurt someone if you talk too much.

  • Tim Letscher

    I was inclined to rail against this article as much as everyone else here but can't add much beyond what's already below other than point out that the article's author has been conspicuously absent in response to this feedback. What say you, MORGAN CLENDANIEL?

  • Ella Robbins

    The "quick fix" folks are at it again, I see: Tell mothers that if they are careful of their diet for nine months, their child's genes will keep the child's weight in check thereafter. Here is a 2004 study that supports the thesis that it is mostly the trend of mothers working outside of the home, making labor-intensive fresh food preparation from scratch a rarity in children's (and adults') lives. (And, no, those kids ain't gonna get fresh food made from scratch in the school cafeteria, either. ) See page 32 for the researchers' conclusions.

    The more the social engineers try to "fix" things, the more new problems emerge.

  • Jennifer

    Has our diet changed that much over the decades? Haven't we always eaten fats and sugars? Have our bodies changed over the decades? Did we somehow start to get fatter from eating the same things we've always eaten? Our portions have changed. What we call a child's happy meal at McDonald's today was in the 70's the adult meal. People need to listen to their body and stomach and not their mouth and the media that tells you to finish everything on your plate. Especially when they keep making the portions bigger and bigger. Stop eating when you get full.

  • sally cartwright

    This IS offensive, idiotic and based on nothing! What a broad based stupid remark and article!

  • Kylie Heenan

    Excuse me but firstly saturated fat is NOT the cause of obesity, but maybe saturated animal fat could be considered a primary contributor. Saturated COCONUT oil, on the other hand, has been shown to lower cholesterol and assist weight loss. Secondly, diabetes is also contributed to by a lack of sleep. Thirdly, the gander is the male goose. The baby is the gosling. Please at least get your English correct if not your facts. See my page Beauty Bounty on fb for further posts on natural health.

  • VC

    The title of this article is unbelievably offensive, and unbelievably stupid. Unfortunately it only degrades from there. Such a detailed, lengthy article follows this incredibly brazen title. A level of unprecedented coverage on such a bold statement. Although what do yo expect from an agency that sends out an email with a title designed to make you click it.

  • Jennifer Huda

    It is common knowledge NOW. But the USDA recommendations and the diet industry in general in the 70s and 80s encouraged the population in general to consume low fat foods. They supported a carbohydrate rich diet for the sake of lowering dietary fat alone. Government subsidies for big agriculture and the corn industry put carbohydrates in foods that should never have a carbohydrate in them. Processed foods put convenience ahead of nutrition without looking at the larger affects on the population. As a country and culture ALL of our bodies are different from our parents' because of this boon in low-fat culture. I guess in essence we COULD all blame our mom's, but how would that help anyone? Were they supposed to know more than food scientists and the USDA/FDA? How about looking at this as a bigger cultural issue and working for more sweeping change than blaming the women who carried us for following what everyone thought was the responsible way to go. Another generation, and what we're doing now could be the cause of everyone's problems. A little breadth of thought would have been nice here.

  • Rick Mayhew

    I thought this article was going another direction. My Mom was worried when I was young because I was skinny and scrawny. She decided to feed me cinnamon sugar butter sandwiches (and other delicacies) after school so I would put some weight on. It worked. I ballooned to a weight that I fought for years to control. My only claim to fame now is I weigh substantially less than I did when I graduated from high school. Mom could have skipped the goodies. I found out I can add weight anytime I want to…

  • Kathleen Fuller, PhD

    As a biological anthropologist with a special focus in disease and adaptation, I found this post intriguing. I agree with Rachel Dvoskin that epigenetics research is in its infancy.

    However, mismatches between environmental factors and individual biology do result in health problems.

    I have multiple peer-reviewed articles on this topic.

    Also, please do not confuse me with the other Kathleen Fuller PHD who posted on this topic. I believe her background is in psychology.

  • Jennie Marlow

    I am frankly shocked that Fast Company would publish this kind of sophistry. Obesity is a complex disorder with many causal factors. "Blame your mother," has to be the most callow pseudo-analysis of the problem that one could possibly conceive.

  • Heather Buen

    It's articles like this that can lead pregnant women to do some very detrimental things in the name of trying to protect their unborn children. Rachel, your comments are spot on. But quit creating a sense of fear for pregnant moms or they will stop eating foods they should be eating out of fear of putting their children at risk. I've seen too many facebook posts from concerned and smart moms quoting untrue media sensationalized studies and stories. We need to be informed and empowered with accurate statistics and reporting. I'd like to see a study that shows what happens with adopted children who were raised by other parents, to see if this really holds up to the test. Irresponsible reporting!

  • Rachel Dvoskin

    While I appreciate the sentiment and value of this post, I believe it's been framed and written irresponsibly. I'm a geneticist who has worked as both an academic and a science journalist, and I've seen the damage that overstating and sensationalizing--by both scientists and the media--can do.

    I appreciate that the current online science media climate precludes, in many cases, adequate researching and reporting of a news story, but:
    - This post (I assume) is based on a press release only (see "study" link); the original article is not yet published and can not be evaluated for its merit
    - This is a controversial topic--one that involves potential stigma and discrimination--and should be framed more responsibly (take the headline, for example)
    - This type of epigenetics research is extremely new, and statements like this cannot be made on the basis of a single study. Granted they always are, so I am not trying to pick on the author here. Just trying to point out that this finding is by no means a forgone conclusion.

  • Brad

    Sensible article. It's not supposed to be a general rule. So if you skinny and your mom is fat or she ate unhealthily during your time in her womb, it's not rule that you'll be obese or NOT skinny.

    It's logical that since the food the baby is eating is coming from the mom that it should be healthy food.
    Just because it doesn't relate to you does not make this article terrible.

    It's common sense really, not sure why we need a study to back this up.

  • The Greatness

    terrible article. my mom is the last reason i am skinny. she has absolutely nothing to do with it. trust and believe.