New research into whether in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a risk factor for obesity and conditions such as type 2 diabetes is being undertaken at the University of Adelaide in Australia. The study will look at whether babies born by IVF are more likely to become obese, to test new evidence that suggests there may be DNA modifications in IVF-born children that contribute to obesity and diabetes .
The research will examine these DNA modifications, called methylatio, which are laid down when the embryo is developing and may be formed differently if conception occurs outside of the body. Leonie Heilbron, who will lead the study, commented “A couple of recent studies have shown that IVF-born children as young as five years of age are more susceptible to obesity. There is much greater obesity in the whole community than a decade ago due to lifestyle factors, but children born through IVF appear to have a greater risk.”
The scientists will examine IVF-born individuals aged between 18 and 25, in a week-long study involving periods of regulated diet followed by periods of high-fat feasting. They will test insulin levels at the end of each stage to compare them with a control group of naturally conceived adults, to see if the IVF participants have much bigger increases in glucose and insulin .
Dr Heilbronn added “Early studies reported little or no difference in the incidence of birth defects in children conceived through IVF, but emerging evidence shows that there may be more subtle DNA modifications, which could later influence adult health.”

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