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Prenatal high-fat diets may impair brain function and behaviour of children

Posted:  Friday, November 14, 2014

A new research has found that giving in to cravings of high fat food during pregnancy and lactation could be detrimental for the offspring. The study found that a high fat maternal diet could have a significant and lasting negative effect on the brain function and behaviour of children.

The results of the study were presented at The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at Obesity Week 2014 in Boston. The study included 24 pregnant rats, of which 12 rats were fed with a high fat diet similar to the Western diet, while the rest were fed with standard chow.

The team of researchers subsequently evaluated the behaviour of the rat offspring through a variety of tests. The offspring of rats fed the high-fat diet weighed more, ate more, and had a stronger preference for high-fat foods. Moreover, they were less active, less responsive to amphetamine (appetite suppressant) and had impaired object recognition. The male offspring of these rats also reported altered gene expression in the hippocampus persisting through adulthood.

"We know that high-fat diets are tied to increased risk for metabolic syndrome and obesity, which in turn are associated with decreased brain function. However, this is a rare study measuring the direct effect of high-fat diets of pregnant rats on the brain function of their offspring, and it provides further incentive for childbearing women to eat a varied and nutritious diet," said the researchers.

They however cautioned about directly applying the results of the animal model to humans and suggest further research among human subjects in this area to confirm the findings.

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