Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine in U.S.A. and the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research in Germany used female mice to find out how maternal diet influenced brain development in offspring.
In the study researchers played around with feeding mouse mothers a high-fat diet before and during pregnancy and lactation. Pups born to obese mothers have different metabolic profiles than those of pups from mothers who were on a normal diet.
Specifically, the pups whose mothers ate a high-fat diet while they were in utero had impaired connections in brain neurons that regulate glucose and help control when they're hungry and full and how fat gets broken down. The study also suggests that even normal-weight moms need to watch their diet if they want to avoid setting the stage for obesity in their kids.
Last October, Prof. Dr. David Ludwig from New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital, U.S.A., and his colleagues published a study on 40,133 mothers and 91,045 of their children. To factor out the role of genes and environment, the researchers looked only at siblings, comparing how much weight a mother gained in different stages of pregnancy and how that related to her children's weight years later, assuming maternal weight gain is a good proxy for the quality of diet during pregnancy.
They found that kids born to moms who put on too much weight — 40 pounds or more — during pregnancy had an increased risk of becoming obese even 10 years down the road.
"Genes, at this point, are not modifiable, whereas diet and pregnancy weight gain are."