Peer Reviewed

High-fat diet not good in pregnancy

A study has found that high-fat diet and obesity during pregnancy compromise the blood-forming stem cell system in the liverof the developing baby responsible for creating and sustaining lifelong blood and immune system function.

“The results offer a model for testing whether the effects of a high-fat diet and obesity can be repaired through dietary intervention, a key question when extrapolating this data to human populations,” said Daniel L. Marks, professor of pediatric endocrinology at Oregon-based OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

The life-long burden of a western-style diet on the heart and circulatory system have long been appreciated. However, prior to this study, no one had considered whether the developing blood stem cells might be similarly vulnerable to prenatal high-fat diet and/or maternal obesity. The findings are published in the journal Molecular Metabolism.

Several years ago, Marks and his colleagues developed a mouse model that closely mimics the high-fat, high-simple-sugar diet currently consumed by many young women of child-bearing age.

Their subsequent research demonstrated that maternal overnutrition in mice significantly reduced the size of the foetal liver.

On the basis of this information, Marks partnered with another stem cell expert Peter Kurre.

Together, they discovered the complex changes that occur as a result of maternal high-fat diet and obesity put significant constraints on the growth and expansion of blood stem cells in the foetal liver, which ultimately compromises the developing immune system.

“In light of the spreading western-style, high-fat diet and accompanying obesity epidemic, this study highlights the need to better understand the previous unrecognised susceptibility of the stem and progenitor cell system,” Kurre explained.

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The findings may provide broad context for the rise in immune disease and allergic disposition in children, the authors said.


Kamimae-Lanning, Ashley N. et al. Maternal high-fat diet and obesity compromise fetal hematopoiesis. Molecular Metabolism. DOI:10.1016/j.molmet.2014.11.001

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