High-fat diet during pregnancy destroys baby’s immune system – ‘making them prone to serious illness later on’
- Poor maternal nutrition hinders fetal immune system development
- Maternal obesity may also affect fetal bone marrow development
- Poor maternal nutrition suppresses expression of B cells, the makers of antibodies
Eating junk food during pregnancy may hinder the development of babies’ immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to future illnesses, a study suggests.
For the first time, scientists showed that high-fat diets damage key immune cells in the unborn offspring – in research on monkeys.
Experts have long suspected that an overweight mother has a host of negative health effects on children.
Now they’ve shown — in primates at least — that a poor diet, as well as maternal obesity, hinders the development of unborn babies’ immune systems.
Excess fatty tissue in bone marrow cells is believed to have a negative effect on the production and circulation of blood cells, including immune cells, in a fetus.
Study co-author Dr. Oleg Varlamov, of the Oregon National Primate Research Center, said, “The main implication of this study is that maternal obesity can affect fetal bone marrow development and the fetal immune system.”
A team of scientists reported that a mother’s high-fat diet seriously hinders the development of a fetus’ immune system, potentially leaving them vulnerable to postnatal disease
The team of scientists from California, Oregon, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kentucky examined the effects of a Western-style high-fat diet in pregnant macaques.
IS IT SAFE TO BE OVERWEIGHT DURING PREGNANCY?
Being obese during pregnancy can have a major impact on the health of mother and baby.
It carries the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, maternal gestational diabetes, a difficult delivery, and the baby becoming obese or having birth defects later in life, the Mayo Clinic says.
Women are advised to lose weight before becoming pregnant to protect their own health and that of their baby.
If they are very overweight (usually defined as a BMI of 30 or higher) and are pregnant, it is not recommended to try to lose weight during pregnancy as it may not be safe according to the NHS.
There is no evidence that losing weight during pregnancy reduces the risk of complications.
The best way to protect the health of the mother and the health of her baby is to attend all prenatal appointments so that the midwife, doctor, and other health professionals can watch for complications.
It is also important to eat a healthy and balanced diet and to exercise every day.
A healthy diet during pregnancy to provide a baby with adequate nutrients includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, starchy and filling foods to avoid snacking, protein sources, and dairy products. It is recommended to limit foods high in fat and sugar to avoid being overweight.
Half of the female macaques were fed a high-fat diet from puberty for about five and a half years, while the other half were fed standard monkey food.
The high-fat diet group was more likely to cause the premature formation of fat cells in the fetal bone marrow.
It elicited a strong bodily immune response in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs), which are responsible for the production of blood cells, also in response to viral attacks from outside.
During the later stages of pregnancy, the fetal bone marrow in primates becomes the main site where immune cells called macrophages and B lymphocytes are produced.
Those immune cells are produced as a result of the HSPCs reaching their mature cellular form in a process called differentiation.
dr. Varlamov said, “Maternal obesity greatly affected the ability of fetal blood stem cells to produce B lymphocytes — immune cells that make antibodies in response to infection — and made fetal blood stem cells more inflamed.”
The team’s findings represent the first demonstration of the effects of maintaining a high-fat diet during pregnancy on a developing fetus.
Though an important caveat, the team said, is the small sample size of the study. Only nine control fetuses and four western high-fat fetuses were studied. Specifically, the scientists analyzed the fetuses’ femurs.
The researchers said their findings were further limited because they did not take into account the effects of maternal obesity on the baby’s development after birth.
“This study provides the foundation for understanding the link between maternal obesity, prenatal nutrition and diseases involving immune descendants of the HSPC compartment in children,” said Dr. Varlamov.
It is generally accepted that maintaining a poor diet during pregnancy has negative effects on the development of the unborn child.
Moderate nutrition hinders fetal growth, increases the risk of low birth weight and impairs organ development.
Their findings were: published Thursday in Stem Cell Reports magazine.