A new study showed that individuals who were not properly nourished while in the womb have reduced ability to store fact correctly later in life, putting them at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other age-related diseases.
The findings could lead to new ways identifying people who are at a greater risk of developing these diseases, researchers said.
According to the team from the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester, the research showed that poor diet in the womb cause the individual's inability to store fats correctly as he matures.
Proper fat storage in the body is important, otherwise, these will be stored in the liver and muscle which could lead to diseases.
"One of the ways that our bodies cope with a rich modern western diet is by storing excess calories in fat cells.
When these cells aren't able to absorb the excess then fats get deposited in other places, like the liver, where they are much more dangerous and can lead to type 2 diabetes," said Professor Anne Willis of the MRC Toxicology Unit.
Researchers found that the process of storing excess calories in fat cells is controlled by a molecule called miR-483-3p, which produced at higher levels in individuals who had experienced a poor diet in their mother's wombs than those who were better nourished.
According to the team, miR-483-3p works by suppressing a protein called GDF3.
A study of a group of adult humans who were born with a low birth weight revealed that GDF3 protein was present at around only thirty percent of the levels found in people born at a normal
"It has been known for a while that your mother's diet during pregnancy plays an important role in your adult health, but the mechanisms in the body that underlie this aren't well understood.
We have shown in detail how one mechanism links poor maternal diet to diabetes and other diseases that develop as we age," according to Dr Susan Ozanne, a British Heart Foundation Senior Fellow, who led the work at the University of Cambridge.
"Improving people's diets and encouraging exercise is clearly the best way to combat the epidemic of diabetes and diet-related disease which is sweeping through our society.
However some people are at particular risk of these diseases, despite not looking visibly overweight.
This research will hopefully allow us to help these people to take precautionary steps to reduce their likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes," Professor Willis said.
The findings of the study was published in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation.