"The researchers also found that these small RNAs target genes with roles in nutrition."
New York, July 18 - Starvation may affect the health of at least the next three generations, says a study.
Events like the Dutch famine of World War II have compelled scientists to take a fresh look at acquired inheritance, said Oliver Hobert from the Columbia University Medical Centre in the US.
Starving women who gave birth during the famine had children who were unusually susceptible to obesity and other metabolic disorders, as were their grandchildren.
Starvation induces changes in the cell structure, specifically in the RNAs (Ribonucleic acid) and these changes are passed on for at least three generations, the findings showed.
The research team starved roundworms for six days and then examined their cells for molecular changes.
The starved roundworms were found to have a specific set of small RNAs which persisted for at least three generations, even though the worms were fed normal diet.
The researchers also found that these small RNAs target genes with roles in nutrition.
The study was published in the journal Cell.