London: Health problems linked to obesity - such as heart disease and diabetes - could skip an entire generation, a new study has found.

Researchers have found that the offspring of obese mothers may be spared health problems linked to obesity, while their own children then inherit them.

The University of Edinburgh study has shown that moderately obese mothers can make an impact on the birth weight and diabetes risk of grandchildren, in the apparent absence of effects in their own children.

Scientists studied moderately obese female mice fed on a diet high in fat and sugar before and during pregnancy. The mice were found to pass on the risks of obesity to the second generation of offspring, while virtually no ill effects were seen in the first generation.

Reasons why the first generation is apparently protected are not fully understood. Researchers suggested that reasons could include differences in maternal weight gain during pregnancy or specific food eaten during pregnancy.

They added that studying effects of this kind – referred to as developmental programming - in humans, could be challenging but possible. "Given the worldwide increase in obesity, it is vital that we gain an understanding of how future generations may be affected. Future studies could look at these trends in humans but they would need to take into account genetics, environmental, social and cultural factors," Dr Amanda Drake, Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said. The study was published in journal Endocrinology.