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Obesity and a high-fat diet might be hurting your baby


We’ve seen it on the news, we’ve probably even read some articles about it, the “western” diet is awful. Yet, despite the warnings, Americans as a whole still eat awfully. Unfortunately, the health effects are very real and a new study shows that it may not just be effecting an expected mothers health, it may be harming the unborn child as well.

Physician-scientists have just revealed that a high-fat diet and obesity during pregnancy compromise the blood-forming, or hematopoietic, stem cell system in the fetal liver responsible for creating and sustaining lifelong blood and immune system function.

The life-long burden of a western-style diet on the heart and circulatory system have long been appreciated. However, prior to this study, no one had considered whether the developing blood stem cells might be similarly vulnerable to prenatal high-fat diet and/or maternal obesity.

“Our results offer a model for testing whether the effects of a high-fat diet and obesity can be repaired through dietary intervention, a key question when extrapolating this data to human populations,” said Daniel L. Marks, M.D., Ph.D.

Several years ago, the team developed a mouse model that closely mimics the high-fat, high-simple-sugar diet currently consumed by many young women of childbearing age. Their subsequent research demonstrated that maternal overnutrition in mice significantly reduced the size of the fetal liver.

Armed with this information, they discovered that the complex changes that occur as a result of maternal high-fat diet and obesity put significant constraints on the growth and expansion of blood stem cells in the fetal liver, which ultimately compromises the developing immune system.

“In light of the spreading western-style, high-fat diet and accompanying obesity epidemic, this study highlights the need to better understand the previous unrecognized susceptibility of the stem and progenitor cell system,” Kurre said.

“These findings may provide broad context for the rise in immune disease and allergic disposition in children.”

Personally I prefer people just to feel comfortable about their size no matter what size they are — in other words I am very much anti “fat shaming.” Everyone should be allowed to be who they want to be. That being said, the health risks of being severely overweight are well documented so it’s up to the individual to decide what they want for themselves. However, this study suggests that it isn’t just a personal problem in every case.

Kamimae-Lanning, A., Krasnow, S., Goloviznina, N., Zhu, X., Roth-Carter, Q., Levasseur, P., Jeng, S., McWeeney, S., Kurre, P., & Marks, D. (2014). Maternal high-fat diet and obesity compromise fetal hematopoiesis Molecular Metabolism DOI: 10.1016/j.molmet.2014.11.001

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