Smoking and obesity are two of the biggest public concerns facing populations around the world. Childhood obesity is on the increase worldwide. Many environmental factors like diet, exercise, and genetics must be contributing to the childhood obesity. A new research adds a new reason to this problematic: Smoking during pregnancy.
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.
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. The results showed that chemerin was more prevalent in the skin of infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy.
It was also found that this increased expression corresponded with reduced DNA methylation, which is one mechanism which regulates the expression of chemerin, a protein associated with obesity, and therefore increased expression could increase the likelihood of a baby becoming obese. In short, smoking in pregnancy could be leading to changes in the regulation of genes which play an important role in fat cell development and obesity!