Your Diet and Your Grandchildren

Eating too much ice cream when you’re pregnant may have health implications for generations to come. According to a new study by researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, pregnant females who eat a high fat diet may not only increase breast cancer risk in their daughters but also in that daughter’s offspring — the “granddaughters.”

The researchers aren’t sure why this risk is passed on through two generations. The theory is that it occurs through “epigenetic” changes resulting in an increase in terminal end buds in the breast tissue. This increase can apparently be passed on through generations. Breast cancer is believed to develop in these buds, and having more of them seems to increase breast risk, according to the researchers.

The results of this study conducted on laboratory rats found that the risk appears to not only extend from mother to daughter and granddaughter, but also from mother to son to granddaughter. The daughters of male and female rats born from mother rats with a high-fat diet had an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer, while the risk was about 69 percent if the granddaughter’s mother or father was born from a rat that ate normally and the other parent came from a high-fat consuming parent. Granddaughters of grandmother rats who ate normally had only a 50 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

Interestingly, while the grandmother rat ate a diet that was 43 percent fat, she didn’t consume more calories than a control group of rats, and both her daughters and grandaughters ate a normal diet.

The researchers also studied a different control population of rats given a form of estrogen, and saw no increase in breast cancer risk in granddaughters. They say this suggests that the increase in estrogen production related to eating more fat is not the source of the problem.

They point out that this study proves pregnant women need to eat a well-balanced diet, as they may be affecting the future health of their daughters and granddaughters, as well as their own well-being.