A mother's diet during pregnancy can increase the risk of obesity in her unborn child, an international study has discovered.

The scientists, whose study will be published in the journal Diabetes, claim that a diet heavy in carbohydrates altered parts of the DNA of the child. Children whose DNA had been altered were then discovered to be fatter than those whose DNA hadn't changed.

It is thought the developing baby tries to predict the environment in which it will be born into and adjusts its DNA accordingly.

Professor Keith Godfrey, from the University of Southampton, led the report. He told the BBC:

"It is both a fascinating and potentially important piece of research.

"All women who become pregnant get advice about diet, but it is not always high up the agenda of health professionals.

"The research suggests women should follow the advice as it may have a long term influence on the baby's health after it is born."

Posted by Robert Mair on 19.4.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com