A new study says that women who eat fatty foods during pregnancy or while breastfeeding may give birth to fatter babies.
The study on mice, led by Brazilian nutritionist Luciana Pisani, found that pregnant and lactating rats when given a diet of hydrogenated fat during pregnancy and lactation delivered babies who were fatter in comparison to rats fed a normal diet.
It was found that an unhealthy diet led to damaging consequences even after the fats were removed from the diet and had links to insulin production.
"We know that foetal growth is influenced by the mother's nutritional status. The nutritional conditions during pregnancy has a major role in the metabolic and hormonal interactions between the mother's body, placenta and foetus," said Pisani.
"To date only a few studies have looked at the effects on trans fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation on the metabolism of offspring in adulthood. We found that the fatty content of the babies' bodies increased when the mothers were fed the hydrogenated fat rich diet and this could be traced to the gene expression of adipokines," she added.
In an investigation to examine whether feeding pregnant and lactating rats hydrogenised fats rich in trans fatty acids, increased the fat content in carcass, the researchers found that their metabolic rate dropped dramatically.
However, when young rats were fed a normal diet after they were born, they ate less and weighed less despite their mothers eating the trans fatty acids while pregnant. The gene expression of adipokines was also examined in relation to insulin production.
Later, the offspring were weighed weekly and a 40 percent increase in body fat content for the young rats was observed after exposure to the trans-fatty acid enriched diet after weaning.
The researchers found that rats whose mothers were fed the trans fatty acids and continued to eat the fats into adulthood had the highest metabolic efficiency. The same rats increased their insulin production.
"Fats play a fundamental role in foetal development and changes in dietary fatty acids has important implications for foetal and postnatal development. Heavy ingestion of very hydrogenated fats rich in trans fatty acids increases risk of cardiovascular diseases and reduces insulin sensitivity and so leads to type 2 diabetes. We need to investigate this further as this has important implications for people's own diets, especially pregnant women," said Pisani.
The study is published in Lipids in Health and Disease.