Big Bouncing Baby?

Not only are you what you eat, but your infant may be what you eat, according to the latest research. A diet of hydrogenated fats during pregnancy and lactation had mother rats giving birth to fatter rat babies. Even after fat was removed from the infant rats' diets, an obvious deleterious effect on them was noted. The study found that this phenomenon is linked to insulin production.

Mom's Diet

Brazilian nutritionist Luciana Pisani started with the premise that fetal growth is influenced by the mother's nutritional status. For instance, maternal nutritional conditions during pregnancy have a major impact on metabolic and hormonal interactions between the mother's body, the placenta, and the fetus. However, the nutritionist noted that only a few studies had looked into the possibility that trans-fats in the diet of the mother during pregnancy and lactation may have an effect on the metabolism of their adult offspring.

Baby Fat

Pisani's team found that the fat content of rat babies' bodies increased when the mothers' diets were rich in hydrogenated fat and that this link could be traced to adipokines, cell to cell signaling proteins which can modify appetite and insulin, for instance.

Researchers found that feeding pregnant and lactating rats hydrogenated fats rich in trans-fatty acids caused a dramatic drop in their metabolism. In an interesting parallel, young rats fed a normal diet from birth, ate less and weighed less though their mothers had been eating a fat-rich diet while pregnant. Researchers also examined adipokines, long suspected as a component in obesity, in its relation to insulin production.

The rat offspring, unwitting participants in this research on obesity, were weighed once a week. It was found that rat babies who were given a trans-fatty acid enriched diet after weaning had a 40% increase in body fat content. Rat offspring, whose moms were fed the trans-fatty acid diet during pregnancy and lactation, and were kept on this fat-rich diet into adulthood, had the highest metabolic efficiency with increased insulin production.

Pisani believes that fats play an important role in fetal development and that changes in dietary fatty acids may have a profound effect on fetal and postnatal development. Pisani comments, "Heavy ingestion of very hydrogenated fats rich in trans fatty acids increases risk of cardiovascular diseases and reduces insulin sensitivity and so leads to type 2 diabetes. We need to investigate this further as this has important implications for people's own diets, especially pregnant women."

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