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Collaborative Success Stories: Baby Fat


Can obesity begin in the womb?  University of Missouri researcher Dr. Frederick vom Saal says exposure to certain chemicals might alter genetic function in fetuses.

Using mice, vom Saal headed a research team that studied the effect of endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in everyday plastics and pesticides. The team found that mice exposed to the chemicals were born at very low birth weights, but then gained abnormally large amounts of weight.

Vom Saal warns that these chemicals can change the function of genes in humans, altering the fetus’s metabolic system and predisposing the individual to obesity. As an adult, or even as a child, he or she could eat and exercise similarly to a person with a normal metabolic system, yet become obese. “People who have abnormal metabolic systems have to live extremely different lifestyles in order to not be obese because their systems are malfunctioning,” says vom Saal.   

Dr. Frederick vom Saal is Curators Professor in the Division of Biological Sciences in MU’s College of Arts and Science and a member of the university’s Endocrine Disruptors Group.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine