With the rising case of obesity among women of childbearing age around the world, experts predict more obese and unhealthy infants in the future.
A study by the Center of Pregnancy and Newborn Research at the Health Science Center and the National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City suggests that if women lose weight during pregnancy, their babies inherit the health benefits.
To perform the study, the researchers gave one group of female rats a high-fat diet before their mating period. These rats stayed on the diet until adolescent life, pregnancy and lactation. On the other hand, another group of rats was moved to a diet with a normal range of fat content just before mating.
Only male offsprings were evaluated by the researchers. Those born from obese mothers were generally fatter. They had higher than normal levels of triglycerides (fatty acids influenced by ‘recent fat and alcohol intake’), leptin (a hormone chiefly involved in fat metabolism), insulin (hormone made by the pancreas to decrease the amount of sugar glucose in the blood) and insulin resistance.
Those born from the mothers with a stricter diet, on the other hand, had significantly lower fat mass and fat cell size. These indicators of being overweight, though, despite lowered, were not entirely eliminated.
Said Dr. Nathanielsz, a professor in UTHSC, "It is of interest that the offsprings of the obese mothers also showed high levels of leptin, a hormone that signals the brain to decrease appetite. This may mean they've developed a brain that is resistant to the signals that tell them they're getting fat, and they just go on eating and thus get fat as their mothers were. Leptin levels were normal in the offspring of the intervention group, showing that we can break this cycle."
This is especially good news for moms who have been battling weight problems, as they can reverse the metabolic effects for their baby by improving their diet during pregnancy.
SOURCES: • Medterms.com • February 2, 2011. “Losing Body Fat Before Pregnancy Can Be Beneficial for the Baby, Tat Study Shows” ScienceDaily.com • Julie Knapp. February 3, 2011. “Losing Weight Before Pregnancy Can Benefit Baby” Parents.com