Researchers have found that a mother’s dietary fat intake during pregnancy can have long-lasting effects on her child’s brain development.
specifically, a high-fat diet during pregnancy can lead to “gender-specific changes in the brain.” These changes can then lead to different behaviours in boys and girls.
For example, boys who are exposed to a high-fat diet in utero are more likely to be hyperactive and have difficulty paying attention. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to be anxious and have difficulty regulating their emotions.
While the exact mechanism by which a mother’s diet affects her child’s brain development is not yet known, researchers believe it has to do with the way that fat affects the structure and function of neurons.
It’s important to note that these effects are not permanent and that they can be mitigated by providing a healthy diet and environment for children after they are born.
Nevertheless, this research provides further evidence of the importance of a healthy diet during pregnancy and underscores the need for more research on the long-term effects of a mother’s diet on her child’s brain development.
Dietary fat intake during pregnancy can lead to sex-specific differences in the brain and behavior of offspring, according to animal research published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Maternal diet is known to influence offspring health and disease risk, but how it does so is not well understood. In the new study, researchers from UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh fed pregnant rats either a normal diet or a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates.
Offspring from both groups were healthy at birth, but those born to mothers on the high-fat diet were more likely to be obese as adults and to display increased anxiety and impaired learning and memory.
In addition, the high-fat-fed offspring showed differences in the structure and function of key brain regions known to be important for energy balance, metabolism, and stress response.
“Our findings suggest that a mother’s diet during pregnancy can have long-lasting effects on her offspring’s brain and behavior, with important implications for health and disease,” said senior author Shelley McCombe, a professor of neurobiology at UCLA.
The study provides novel insights into how maternal diet can influence the developing brain and has important implications for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which are more common in males.
“This work highlights the importance of maternal diet in shaping brain development and underscores the need for further research into how early life experiences can lead to sex-specific differences in the brain and behavior,” said senior author John M. Hadden, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.