Health problems linked to obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease, could skip an entire generation, according to a study.
Overweight mothers could pass on such health problems straight to their grandchildren, missing out their immediate offspring, researchers found.
The reasons why the first generation is apparently spared are not yet fully understood but experts believe their findings could help inform health policy on obesity.
The study was carried out by a team at the University of Edinburgh.
Scientists studied moderately obese female mice fed on a diet high in fat and sugar before and during pregnancy.
The animals were found to pass on the risks of obesity to the second generation of offspring, while almost no ill-effects were seen in the first generation, the university said.
Moderately obese mothers can affect the birthweight and diabetes risk of their grandchildren, in the apparent absence of any effects in their own children, the study suggests.
The findings could help with the formation of health policies surrounding obesity.
Studying effects of this kind, referred to as developmental programming, in humans could be challenging but is possible, the scientists said.
The study comes at a time when obesity rates are said to be at an all-time high. Breast and colon cancer and stroke are some of the health problems associated with being considerably overweight.
Current concern about the so-called obesity epidemic is said to be mainly focused on the health of obese women and their children, rather than the wider family.
Dr Amanda Drake, a senior clinical research fellow at the university, said: “Given the worldwide increase in obesity, it is vital that we gain an understanding of how future generations may be affected. Future studies could look at these trends in humans but they would need to take into account genetics, environmental, social and cultural factors.”
The study, which appears in the journal Endocrinology, was supported by baby charity Tommy’s, the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council.
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