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Banned Insecticide Linked to US Obesity Rates

Update Date: Oct 23, 2013 01:30 PM EDT

Insecticide may play a role in the U.S. obesity epidemic, according to a new study.

New research reveals that ancestral exposures to environmental compounds like DDT may be factor in high rates of obesity.

Researchers at Washington State University revealed exposed pregnant rats to DDT and found that the half the third-generation males and females were obese. Researchers noted that DDT did not increase the likelihood of obesity in the parent or first generation of offspring.

The findings suggest that DDT may be affecting how genes are turned on and off in the offspring of an exposed animal.  

"What your great-grandmother was exposed to during pregnancy, like DDT, may promote a dramatic increase in your susceptibility to obesity, and you will pass this on to your grandchildren in the absence of any continued exposures," Michael Skinner, WSU professor and founder of its Center for Reproductive Biology said in a news release.

The effect is called transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, and Skinner said DDT effects on obesity are significantly greater than other toxicants he has studied.

While DDT has been banned in the United States, Skinner said "the third generation of people exposed in the 1950s is now of adult age and has a dramatic increase in diseases such as obesity."

The findings are published in the journal BMC Medicine.

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