A high-fat diet during pregnancy may cause the baby to develop diabetes, even if the mum is not obese or diabetic herself, according to new research from the US. Fats from fast food or pastries before birth can modify gene expression in the liver.
The University of Illinois study is published in the Journal of Physiology.
A high-fat diet before birth modifies gene expression in the liver so they are more likely to overproduce glucose. The high-fat diet that caused these changes was a typical Western diet that contained 45% fat.
"Until now we didn't realize that a mother's diet during pregnancy had a long-term effect on the metabolic pathways that affect her child's glucose production," said Yuan-Xiang Pan, professor of nutrition.
The team fed obesity-resistant rats either a high-fat or a control diet from the first day of gestation to get the results.
Government guidelines recommend pregnant women should consume a balanced diet high in ‘good’ fats, such as olive oil, oily fish and nuts and seeds, and low in saturated fats, such as fast food, pastries and cakes.
The team hopes that the study will give doctors a tool for screening newborns born with this propensity so they can advise parents and children how to manage the condition to give them their best chance of avoiding diabetes.
"Obstetrics patients rarely see a dietitian unless they're having medical problems like gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia,” said doctoral student Rita Strakovsky. “Doctors now tend to focus on how much weight a woman should gain in a healthy pregnancy. Although healthy weight gain is extremely important, nutritional guidance could be invaluable for all pregnant women and their babies.”