High-Sugar, High-Fat Diets During Pregnancy Can Impact Future Generations

Pregnant women who consume diets rich in sugar and fat can negatively affect the family bloodline for at least three future generations, according to a new study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis researchers.

Results from the study claim that even if offspring consume healthy diets after birth, they can still be predisposed to metabolic issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

"Our findings indicate that a mother's obesity can impair the health of later generations," said Kelle H. Moley, MD, senior author of the study. "This is particularly important because more than two-thirds of reproductive-age women in the United States are overweight or obese."

Inherited obesity

During the study researchers noticed that obese mice passed along metabolic problems through mitochondrial DNA in the unfertilized cells of the ovaries.

"Our data are the first to show that pregnant mouse mothers with metabolic syndrome can transmit dysfunctional mitochondria through the female bloodline to three generations," said Moley. "Importantly, our study indicates oocytes - or mothers' eggs - may carry information that programs mitochondrial dysfunction throughout the entire organism."

Mice were fed a high-sugar, high-fat diet from 6 weeks prior to conception through weaning. The diets consisted of 60 percent fat and 20 percent sugar, which is the equivalent of eating fast food every day. After birth the offspring were fed healthy diets low in fat and sugar, but they still showed a strong resistance to insulin while developing other metabolic issues.

Researchers fear that because human offspring typically consume diets similar to their parents that the effects of maternal metabolic syndrome could be even more magnified compared to the mice in the study.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis

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