Teen Girls Can Reverse Poor Effects of Maternal Diet with New Habits

Posted 04/04/2017 | By HealthCorps

There are a lot of actions we can take in life that are irreversible.  A new study suggests that the impact of a poor maternal diet on female offspring can be reversed.

This study published in the FASEB Journal used four groups of mice.  Group one, the control group, was fed a set diet during maternal mice pregnancy and continued during the lactation phase.  The second group was fed a high-fat diet during pregnancy and lactation.  The third group ate a nutrient-enriched diet during pregnancy and lactation.  The fourth group, included offspring from the high-fat diet group, and was fed an enriched diet, in early life.  All the groups were switched to the control diet in adulthood.

The rats from the different groups were then tested with reward-based behavior challenges.  The group fed the nutrient-rich diet during pregnancy and after birth, learned faster, and was more motivated to perform tasks in order to receive rewards.  The researchers also found that the fourth group, which included offspring from mice that were first fed a high-fat diet, and then received a nutrient-rich diet in their early years after birth, showed behaviors consistent with “a reversal of impact” of the high-fat maternal diet.  Their testing times were faster than the control group and the high-fat diet group.

Those findings were incredibly encouraging to the researchers.  This study bolsters the position of many nutrition experts who believe that a diet change at any point in life can help to limit or even reverse the impact of a poor diet, even one that has been in place for some time.  Dr. Dean Ornish has been a maverick in the field of cardiac nutrition, showing how a very high fiber, vegan or vegetarian diet can reverse many of the symptoms of heart disease and even extend the life of patients who have sustained serious cardiac events.

Recent research also suggests that a Mediterranean diet of fruits, whole grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil, can help to support health and longevity, even in those individuals who had regularly consumed an unhealthy diet for many decades.

We do know that maternal obesity and poor nutrition can impair fertility in female offspring and male offspring seem to benefit more from maternal exercise habits, in utero.  Maternal diet is a hot issue because experts recognize that the diet doesn’t only affect the mother, but also sets the stage in terms of health implications, for offspring.  This study should not diminish efforts to offer nutrition guidance to women who are considering pregnancy or already pregnant.  It does however support the need to intercept feeding practices in childhood or even during teen years, to counteract some of the negative health outcomes in offspring whose mothers ate an unhealthy maternal diet.

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