Poor dietary intake during pregnancy can cause problems for
the developing fetus. Child of a slightly undernourished mother is more likely to suffer early aging of the heart, suggested a new research.
The new study looked at the relationship between
food intake of pregnant baboons and the health of their offspring's
heart. The study, published in The Journal of Physiology
carried out by a multidisciplinary team led by Dr. Geoffrey Clarke at
the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and Dr. Peter
Nathanielsz at the University of Wyoming.
‘Child of a slightly undernourished mother is more likely to suffer early aging of the heart, suggested a new research.’
The researchers found that moderately reducing a mother's food
intake can impact the rate at which the offspring's heart ages. Evidence
is accumulating that restricted dietary intake can cause problems for
the fetus which result in abnormal structure and function of developing
organs, such as the heart. This makes it more likely that the offspring
will suffer chronic illnesses later in life, such as heart disease and
stroke. This study introduces the additional potential that a restricted
diet during development accelerates the rate of aging.
The researchers chose to study the baboon heart as this model most
closely mimics human development and aging. They used MRI scanning to
study the hearts of male and female baboons whose mothers ate thirty
percent less than the normally fed baboons.
They found that the offspring of baboons, which ate less, showed signs
of reduced heart function that comes with age. By five years of life,
equivalent to twenty human years, the structure and function of the
heart were already impaired.
The scientists describe the effects as being akin to what happens to
a car that is built out of poorly manufactured parts and according to a
poor design. The car won't travel as far, as fast, or for as long as
it's correctly built peers. Similarly, poor maternal nutrition can make
it more likely that the baby's organs will show increased disease
susceptibility and early aging.
The research suggests that this issue could affect humans in
developed countries as well as developing. The degree of maternal
dietary restriction undergone by the baboons can be seen in women of
reproductive age in developed countries, especially if the family
struggles to afford sufficient food. Food charity The Trussell Trust
recently found that more than one in five parents in the UK faces food
poverty and struggles to feed their children.
These changes in the heart could contribute to decreased quality of
life, decreased exercise capability, and increased vulnerability to
other diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Understanding the
effect of maternal nutritional stress on aging of the offspring will
allow for interventions early in life, to prevent later-life heart
Commenting on the research, Dr. Peter Nathanielsz, director of the
Wyoming Pregnancy and Life Course Health Center at the University of
"Women's health during pregnancy is of fundamental importance to the
lifetime health of their babies. Society must pay attention to improving
women's nutrition before and during pregnancy to prevent these adverse
outcomes in babies."