LONDON, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet during pregnancy disrupts metabolic processes within the mother's body, which may "program" the mother and her unborn baby for potential health complications later in the life, according to a study released Thursday by the University of Cambridge.
The study, carried out by a team from the university, got the the results after analyzing pregnant mice fed with a diet that contained high amounts of fat and sugar.
Researchers found that excessive consumption of sugar and fat compromised the mother's glucose tolerance and her sensitivity to insulin, which is the hormone that controls blood sugar levels.
These effects might change the mother's disposition to develop health complications after she has given birth, putting her at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular problems in later life, the researchers said.
Meanwhile, the defects in the mother's metabolism impaired nutrient flow to the foetus, as they resulted in the preferential storage of nutrients within the mother's tissues, in favor of allocating these to the developing foetus, according to the study.
This also suggests that a diet which promotes obesity has consequences for foetal development. It may also explain why babies from mothers who are obese or eat obesogenic diets during pregnancy have a tendency to develop conditions such as obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes as adults, according to the study.
"We know that obesity during pregnancy is a risk factor for health complications for mother and baby both during and after pregnancy. This study offers insight into the mechanisms operating during pregnancy that may cause this," said study lead author Dr. Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri who is from the University of Cambridge.