Unhealthy Diet During Pregnancy Could Have Long Term Effects on Offspring

In addition to drinking, smoking, and doing drugs, eating an unhealthy diet while pregnant could have long term effects on one’s offspring. A recent study suggests that serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes develop more often when one’s mother consumes unhealthy foods while pregnant.

The study was performed by feeding pregnant and lactating female rats an unhealthy diet of crisps, muffins and cheese, and observing the response of the offspring.

The baby mice were born overweight, and an apparent appetite for unhealthy foods themselves. In addition, whether fed a healthy or unhealthy diet, these mice were far more likely to develop disease later in life than mice born to non junk food eating mothers.

Very high blood-glucose and insulin levels, which are major characteristics of type 2 diabetes, were observed in these mice during adolescence and adulthood. The mice also had high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, conditions associated with heart disease. The mice generally remained overweight throughout their lives as well, which increases risk of diabetes, heart disease, and a multitude of other diseases. Female offspring were shown to display the above characteristics more so than male offspring.

While this is a very interesting study, these results will need to be observed in human subjects before generally accepted, though as study author Dr. Neil Strickland says, “humans share a number of fundamental biological systems with rats, so there is good reason to assume the effects we see in rats may be repeated in humans.” He then adds that “our research certainly tallies with epidemiological studies linking children’s weight to that of their parents.”

If the results are translated to humans, it does not mean that the poor eating habits of pregnant mothers would make the development of disease inevitable. The most important measure in preventing both diabetes and heart disease is maintaining a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. Nonetheless, pregnant mothers should watch what they eat, whether it be for their babies health or their own.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Strickland, Neil. Thomson, Melanie. The Journal of Physiology news release. June 2008.