Mommy, Let's have Lunch!

Poor nutrition during pregnancy puts babies at risk for obesity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The healthy development of your baby starts in the womb, a fact that has been reinforced by a new study, which found a new factor that contributes to a person's risk of becoming obese.

In a study on newborn rats, researchers found that pregnant mothers with a poor diet can affect the development of their childrens' brains, essentially programming their babies' brains to overeat in adulthood.

dailyRx Insight: A mother’s poor nutrition while pregnant can cause fetus to develop into an obese adult.

Researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute compared the brains of low birthweight newborn rats whose mothers had a restricted diet to the brains of rats born to mothers who ate a healthy amount of food during pregnancy.

They found that an adult's tendency to overeat may begin at the stem cell level before the baby is born. Newborns whose mothers were nutritionally deprived have fewer pathways in the area of the brain that controls appetite. This means that there are fewer ways for the body to tell the brain that it is full.

Although past studies have found links between low birthweight and obesity, this study actually identifies a mechanism that drives this relationship.

The finding from this study has an obvious implication for mothers: following a healthy and nutritious diet during pregnancy will help your child avoid obesity later in life.

Obesity has definitively been linked to health complications including stroke, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, all of which burden America with billions of dollars in avoidable health care costs. Also, obesity negatively impacts America's ability to compete in the global market by costing billions of dollars in lost productivity each year.

The study appears in the journal Brain Research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 10, 2011
Last Updated:
March 11, 2011