How maternal diet influences offspring’s body weight

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New York: Consuming a high-fat diet during pregnancy and lactation may put your offspring at higher risk of obesity later in life, a recent research has found.

The findings, published in the Journal of Physiology, showed that the mechanism that helps limit the amount of food one eats could malfunction in the offspring as a result of maternal high-fat diet.

“It is time that we start to take seriously the idea that obesity is, in part, a brain disease,” said lead investigator Kirsteen Browning, associate professor of neural and behavioural sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine.

She noted that not all people who are obese had mothers who ate high-fat diets when they were pregnant, and not all mothers who eat high-fat diets will have obese children.

“It is just one more risk factor. An understanding of the biological mechanisms underpinning obesity could help stem the tide of obesity,” she added.

For the study, the researchers fed one group of rats a high-fat diet during pregnancy and lactation. Their offspring were fed the same diet after weaning.

When the rats reached adolescence, the researchers measured their neural activity involved in energy balance and appetite regulation.

“We looked at the circuits that relay information from the stomach and the small intestine to the brain and back to the stomach telling it how to work,” Browning said.

These normal reflex mechanisms, which help limit the amount of food we eat, can malfunction and become less sensitive in obesity.

“We found that parts of these reflexes were actually compromised even before we saw obesity,” Browning added.

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