[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
We’ve heard that a mother’s weight during pregnancy can influence the weight of her offspring. Now a study of rats shows that the fat content in a mom’s diet—regardless of her body weight—may permanently change the baby’s brain. These changes can lead to overeating and obesity, according to research published in the November 12th issue of the journal Neuroscience.
Pregnant rats were split into two groups. One group received a balanced diet. The other got high fat-feed. The body weight of the moms remained the same. But the pups showed distinct brain differences. Those born to the moms fed a high-fat diet had a larger number of neurons that produce peptides that stimulate appetite. There was also an increased density of neuronal precursor cells in areas known to be linked to obesity. Those pups ended up eating and weighing more throughout life.
Researchers say that mother rats on a high-fat diet may be priming their offspring to metabolize and crave the same fatty foods. Perhaps today’s obesity epidemic gestated a generation ago.