- Nov 3, 2010
"We found that exposure to a high-fat diet before birth modifies gene expression in the livers of offspring so they are more likely to overproduce glucose, which can cause early insulin resistance and diabetes," said Yuan-Xiang Pan, a U of I professor of nutrition.
"In recent years, the American diet has shifted to include many high-energy, high-fat, cafeteria-type, and fast foods," he noted.
In the study, Pan and doctoral student Rita Strakovsky fed obesity-resistant rats either a high-fat or a control diet from the first day of gestation. Because the animals were not obese before the study began, the scientists were able to determine that diet alone had produced these effects.
"At birth, offspring in the high-fat group had blood sugar levels that were twice as high as those in the control group, even though their mothers had normal levels," Strakovsky said.
"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," Pan said.
"Now that we know this, we urge pregnant women to eat a balanced low-fat diet that follows government guidelines. Then a woman can prime her child for a healthy life instead of future medical struggles,” he added.
The study has been published in the Journal of Physiology.