maternal obesity

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

Study is first to document causal relationship in study of nonhuman primates

July 21, 2017

Science Daily/Oregon Health & Science University

A high-fat diet during pregnancy alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of offspring, new research in an animal model suggests. The new study links an unhealthy diet during pregnancy to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression in children.

 

"Given the high level of dietary fat consumption and maternal obesity in developed nations, these findings have important implications for the mental health of future generations," the researchers report.

 

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology.

 

The study, led by Elinor Sullivan, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Division of Neuroscience at Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU, tested the effect of a maternal high-fat diet on nonhuman primates, tightly controlling their diet in a way that would be impossible in a human population. The study revealed behavioral changes in the offspring associated with impaired development of the central serotonin system in the brain. Further, it showed that introducing a healthy diet to the offspring at an early age failed to reverse the effect.

 

Previous observational studies in people correlated maternal obesity with a range of mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders in children. The new research demonstrates for the first time that a high-fat diet, increasingly common in the developed world, caused long-lasting mental health ramifications for the offspring of non-human primates.

 

In the United States, 64 percent of women of reproductive age are overweight and 35 percent are obese. The new study suggests that the U.S. obesity epidemic may be imposing transgenerational effects.

 

"It's not about blaming the mother," said Sullivan, senior author on the study. "It's about educating pregnant women about the potential risks of a high-fat diet in pregnancy and empowering them and their families to make healthy choices by providing support. We also need to craft public policies that promote healthy lifestyles and diets."

 

Researchers grouped a total of 65 female Japanese macaques into two groups, one given a high-fat diet and one a control diet during pregnancy. They subsequently measured and compared anxiety-like behavior among 135 offspring and found that both males and females exposed to a high-fat diet during pregnancy exhibited greater incidence of anxiety compared with those in the control group. The scientists also examined physiological differences between the two groups, finding that exposure to a high-fat diet during gestation and early in development impaired the development of neurons containing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that's critical in developing brains.

 

The new findings suggest that diet is at least as important as genetic predisposition to neurodevelopmental disorders such as anxiety or depression, said an OHSU pediatric psychiatrist who was not involved in the research.

 

"I think it's quite dramatic," said Joel Nigg, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, pediatrics, and behavioral neuroscience in the OHSU School of Medicine. "A lot of people are going to be astonished to see that the maternal diet has this big of an effect on the behavior of the offspring. We've always looked at the link between obesity and physical diseases like heart disease, but this is really the clearest demonstration that it's also affecting the brain."

 

Sullivan and research assistant and first author Jacqueline Thompson said they believe the findings provide evidence that mobilizing public resources to provide healthy food and pre- and post-natal care to families of all socioeconomic classes could reduce mental health disorders in future generations.

 

"My hope is that increased public awareness about the origins of neuropsychiatric disorders can improve our identification and management of these conditions, both at an individual and societal level," Thompson said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170721164037.htm

Maternal Obesity Puts Infants at Risk of Iron Deficiency

May 1, 2011

Science Daily/American Academy of Pediatrics

Babies born to obese mothers are at risk for iron deficiency, which could affect infant brain development, according to a study presented on April 30 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Denver.

 

In nonpregnant adults, obesity-related inflammation hinders the transport of iron through the intestine, increasing the risk of iron deficiency anemia. When a woman is pregnant, iron is transferred through the intestine to the placenta, but it is not known how maternal obesity affects newborn iron status. Fetal iron status is important because 50 percent of the iron needed for infant growth is obtained before birth.

 

In this study, researchers studied 281 mother/newborn pairs. The women's body mass index was calculated before delivery, and a score of 30 or above was defined as obese. Investigators also determined infants' iron level by analyzing umbilical cord blood.

 

Results showed evidence of impaired iron status in newborns of women who were obese.

 

"These findings are important because iron deficiency in infancy is associated with impaired brain development, and we should understand all risk factors for iron deficiency in infancy," said Pamela J. Kling, MD, FAAP, principal investigator and associate professor of pediatrics/neonatology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

The researchers are investigating why obesity during pregnancy is a risk factor for poorer iron status at birth, Dr. Kling said.

 

"In nonpregnant adults, obesity has been linked to poorer dietary iron absorption and to diabetes, so both factors may contribute," she said. "Additionally, the link may be due to larger fetuses, because obesity during pregnancy results in larger fetuses, and iron needs are proportional to fetal size."

 

The study results also have important implications because the prevalence of obesity in women of childbearing age is increasing.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110430133125.htm

Early weight gain in pregnancy correlates with childhood obesity, first study of its size shows

August 28, 2017

Science Daily/Obesity Society

Weight gain in early pregnancy has the greatest impact on infant size at birth, according to a new study. The study is the largest ever analysis of the effect that weight gain in early pregnancy has on infant size.

 

The study examined 16,218 pregnant mothers throughout the first, second and third trimesters in Tianjin, China to determine the risk of infants' size at birth. Results found weight gain early in pregnancy, before 24 weeks -- regardless of the weight gain later -- had the greatest impact on infant size. Infants born to women with weight gain that exceeds the 2009 Institute of Medicine guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy, prior to 24 weeks, were 2.5 times more likely to be born large.

 

Maternal obesity and weight gain in pregnancy have been strongly linked to the development of overweight and obesity in children, although few studies have examined in-depth gestational weight gain with infant birth weight and childhood obesity. "Obstetrician gynecologists need to begin to educate patients who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant on the implications of weight gain in pregnancy on infant outcomes and the development of childhood obesity," said Leanne M. Redman, PhD, FTOS, who led the study and serves as Associate Professor & Director of the Reproductive Endocrinology & Women's Health Lab at LSU' Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

 

Overall, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should understand the impact that weight gain has on both short and long-term health risks for their child. Since this period of early pregnancy could have the strongest influence on the development of increased adiposity in the child, it is the opportune time to initiate lifestyle interventions in pregnant women. "International clinicians, clinical researchers and pediatricians should care about this research as findings suggest attention to healthy weight gain early in gestation may be warranted," said TOS spokesperson Suzanne Phelan, PhD, Professor of Kinesiology, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

 

In an accompanying editorial published in Obesity, Cheryce L. Harrison, PhD discusses gestational weight gain and its association with infant birth weight, agreeing with the recent Obesity study. "These results validate previous literature in smaller cohorts while notably advancing this field of research in one of the largest, most well-defined mother-infant cohorts," said Dr. Harrison.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170828100800.htm

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