Study Allegedly Links Maternal High-Fat Diet to Increased Risk of Obesity in Offspring
A recent study explores the claim that rats fed a high-fat diet (HFD) during pregnancy produce offspring predisposed to overeating and obesity. Guo-Qing Chang, et al., “Maternal High-Fat Diet and Fetal Programming: Increased Proliferation of Hypothalamic Peptide-Producing Neurons That Increase Risk for Overeating and Obesity,” Journal of Neuroscience, November 2008. The Rockefeller University researchers examined the possibility that an HFD “alters the development” in utero of “hypothalamic peptides involved in controlling food
intake and body weight.” Compared with the progeny of mothers fed a balanced diet, fetuses exposed to an HFD showed alterations in their
hypothalamic peptide-producing neurons that could lead to the “long-term behavioral land physiological changes observed in offspring after weaning, including an increase in food intake, preference for fat, hyperlipidemia, and higher body weight.”
While some scientists warned that the animal study involved an unnatural diet, others thought the evidence lent credence to the belief that maternal diets have long-lasting genetic effects. “The message is clear,” stated the medical director of the nonprofit Weight Concern. “We are not just ‘what we eat’; we are also to some extent ‘what our mothers eat.’” See BBC News, November 17, 2008.