Study: Cigarette smoke harms up to 3 generations with body fat – 01/25/2022

The great-granddaughters of men who started smoking in their teens are more likely to have excess body fat in their youth. This is what a study published in the Scientific Reportson January 21, 2022, but which began in the 1990s.

The study indicates that exposure of family members to tobacco smoke can have consequences that go undetected for entire generations in families.

According to the scientists, this is one of the “first human demonstrations of the transgenerational effects of an environmental exposure over four generations”.

“If these associations are confirmed in other datasets, this will be one of the first human studies with adequate data to begin analyzing these associations and begin to unravel the origin of potentially important intergenerational relationships,” said epidemiologist Jean Golding of the University of Bristol, UK.

In 2014, Golding and other researchers evaluated data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (also known as study ‘Children of the 90s’), an observational study of pregnant women and their families that began in the early 1990s and was initially led by Golding.

Analysis of data from the 2014 questionnaire from the Children of the 90s study revealed that children of parents who started smoking before age 11 were more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) in adolescence, with increased average circumference waist and full body fat mass.

At the time, Golding and his coauthors wrote that this was a rare example of a non-genetic transgenerational signal inherited by human descendants. This time, data analysis revealed that the phenomenon extended over more generations, not just from father to son, but also from grandfather to granddaughter and from great-grandfather to great-granddaughter.

study advanced

“We now show that if the paternal grandfather started smoking in prepuberty — under age 13 — compared to later in childhood — between age 13 and 16 — his granddaughters, but not grandchildren, had evidence of excess smoking. fat mass at two ages, 17 and 24 years,” the researchers explained.

For them, a similar effect can be seen even when intermediate generations do not smoke regularly under 13 years of age, evidencing a transgenerational effect over four generations.

“Before puberty, a boy’s exposure to specific substances can have an effect on the generations that follow him,” says Golding, noting that one of the important takeaways from the finding is the implications this has for our understanding of people’s health today. and how it can be shaped by unseen influences.

The aim of the study is, among others, to uncover the causes of overweight that are not directly related to diet. “One of the reasons why children become overweight may not have so much to do with their current diet and exercise as with the lifestyle of their ancestors or the persistence of associated factors over the years,” the authors suggested in your article.

Why are more studies needed?

The research has some limitations, such as the participants’ lack of knowledge about their family’s lifestyle. It is also possible that this is just a correlation, not an effect caused solely by exposure to tobacco smoke.

“It is noteworthy that the indicated associations are related to obesity; it is generally recognized that obesity is a complex disorder caused by the interaction of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors,” the researchers highlighted. “However, before hypotheses are generated about the mechanisms by which the effects we show may have occurred, it is important to seek confirmatory evidence from other studies,” they conclude.

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