Heart disease is one of the greatest killers in the world nowadays, and it is widely accepted that our genes interact with traditional lifestyle risk factors, such as obesity, smoking or a sedentary life to promote an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, a new study from Cambridge University finds that offspring whose mothers had a complicated pregnancy may be at greater risk of heart disease in later life.
In addition to the adult lifestyle effects, there is already evidence that the gene-environment interaction before birth may be just as important in the programming of future heart health and heart disease.
The research shows that adult offspring from pregnancies complicated by chronic hypoxia have increased indicators of cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure. The lower-than-normal oxygen levels in the developing baby within the womb are one of the most common outcomes of complicated pregnancy in humans.
The study used pregnant sheep to show that maternal treatment with the antioxidant vitamin C during a complicated pregnancy could protect the offspring from developing heart disease.