High-fat diet by mothers could cause brain damage in unborn children

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High-fat diet by mothers could cause brain damage in unborn children
High-fat diet by mothers could cause brain damage in unborn children

Researchers in Austria have found that high-fat maternal diets could cause life-long changes in the brains of the unborn child.

According to the findings of a new study published in the journal ‘Molecular Psychiatry,’ when a pregnant woman consumed a diet high in polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, her body would produce an excess of endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), which overload the foetal system and impair the development of healthy brain networks.

In animals that give live birth, the foetal circulation is the circulatory system of a foetus. The term usually encompasses the entire foetoplacental circulation, which includes the umbilical cord and the blood vessels within the placenta that carry foetal blood.

The ‘Medical Express’ reported that an excess of endogenous cannabinoids could overload the corresponding cannabinoid receptors in the foetal brain and limit their ability to signal.

Consequently, nerve cells would no longer be able to correctly integrate into the brain to fulfil their prospective functions.

Endocannabinoids serve as a fundamental communication system in the brain as well as other organs are substances produced by the body. In the adult brain, endocannabinoids limit communication (‘chemical neurotransmission’) between neurons by binding to cannabinoid receptors. “This means that any substance that influences either endocannabinoid levels or directly affects cannabinoid receptor function will inevitably impinge upon brain development,” the ‘Medical Express’ reported.

Similarly, the study also showed that these impairments persist throughout life of the affected offspring and could serve as critical triggers to developing psychiatric disorders later in the life of the child.

Psychiatric disorders that could result from this impairment include the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.

It is however, unlikely that such damage could simply be reversed by a subsequent change of diet.

A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and in friendships.

The study examined in cell and mouse models, how intake of high-fat diets throughout pregnancy (rich in polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids) impacts foetal brain development.


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