Wednesday, June 08, 2005

New Scientist:Study shows why poor prenatal nutrition leads to obesity

New Scientist Breaking News - Study shows why poor prenatal nutrition leads to obesity:

Poor nutrition in the womb may remodel the brain circuitry of newborn babies and predispose them to become obese in later life, research in mice suggests. The findings may help doctors to prevent the onset of obesity in susceptible infants who are born undernourished, say the researchers.

“Nutritional restriction during fetal life is not uncommon even in modern Western society,” says Norimasa Sagawa at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, one of the researchers. “The important point is that after such nutritional stress during fetal life those (children) are exposed to high-calorie and high-fat diet during their later life.” A combination that may be a recipe for obesity.

Previous research has found that babies born to malnourished mothers are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes in later life. These small babies have a phase of “catch-up” growth, where within their first months they grow more quickly than their bigger born counterparts, eventually reaching equal size. During catch-up, they also show elevated levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin. This is secreted by fat cells and acts to diminish appetite when reserves are high.

These children may have been pre-programmed with a “thrifty phenotype”, a term coined by David Barker at the University of Southampton, UK, and his colleagues. They reasoned that fetuses who sense food scarcity in the womb set their bodies to store more fat, more efficiently. But it was unknown exactly how this programming worked."

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