Researchers from Brown University and China's Harbin Medical University have demonstrated that hyperglycemia was passed down through generations of families affected by the severe famine that took place in China from 1959 to 1961.
“These were unique ‘experiments,’ so to speak, that were unfortunately done to those populations at a time when the society was under revolutionary, social and political upheavals,” Brown Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine Dr. Simin Liu, the study’s co-corresponding author, said. “By studying these families we could determine multiple-generational exposure to nutritional factors and genetic interactions that occur due to famine.”
The study, which examined more than 3,000 local residents and their children, showed that the affects of famine could be passed on to second generations, even to those not gestated during the famine. According to the study, those gestated during the the famine had a 31.2 percent chance of hyperglycemia and those gestated just after a 16.9 percent chance.
“Genetic, epigenetic reprogramming, and subsequent gene-diet interaction are all possible explanations,” Liu said. “By establishing this Chinese famine cohort of families, we hope to conduct a much more comprehensive and in-depth assessment of the whole genome and epigenome along with metabolic biomarkers of these participants moving forward.”