Having a diet rich in fat could alter the brain development in the baby, suggests a new study conducted on animal models. The study has linked unhealthy diet during pregnancy to various mental health disorders in the children.
In the study, conducted by the Oregon Health and Science University research in an animal model it was suggested that a high-fat diet during pregnancy alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of the offspring and has a long-term impact on offspring behaviour.
Researchers grouped a total of 65 female Japanese macaques into two groups. One was given a high-fat diet and the other group was given a control diet during pregnancy.
The researchers then compared anxiety-like behaviour among 135 offspring and found that both males and females exposed to a high-fat diet during pregnancy showed a higher incidence of anxiety compared with those in the control group.
The scientists also studied physiological differences between the two groups. They found that a high-fat diet impaired the development of neurons containing serotonin, a neurotransmitter critical in developing brains. Further, it showed that introducing a healthy diet to the offspring at an early age failed to reverse the effect.
The new findings suggest that diet is at least as important as genetic predisposition to neurodevelopmental disorders such as anxiety or depression. Increasing awareness among pregnant women about the importance of a healthy diet is crucial to prevent such possible outcomes.
Source: in Endocrinology.