- January 23, 2014
Science Daily/Cell Press
Obese mothers are more likely to have children with metabolic disorders, but the underlying reasons for this effect have been unclear. A new study reveals that the offspring of mouse mothers on a high-fat diet are predisposed to obesity and diabetes because of abnormal neuronal circuits in the hypothalamus.
The findings suggest that mothers who consume a large amount of fat during the third trimester may be putting their children at risk for lifelong obesity.
"Our study suggests that expecting mothers can have major impact on the long-term metabolic health of their children by properly controlling nutrition during this critical developmental period of the offspring," says study author Tamas Horvath of the Yale University School of Medicine.
More than one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese and thus are at risk for long-term health problems such as type 2 diabetes. Studies in humans have shown that mothers who are obese or have diabetes put their children at risk for metabolic problems, but researchers have not previously identified the exact brain circuits mediating this effect, known as metabolic programming. Moreover, past studies failed to pinpoint the most critical stage of pregnancy during which maternal nutrition has the greatest impact on offspring health.
"Given that gestational diabetes frequently manifests during the third trimester, our results point toward the necessity of more intensified screening of mothers for altered glucose metabolism, as well as tightly controlled antidiabetic therapy if any alterations are detected during this critical period," Brüning says.