Improper diet during pregnancy increases the risk of obesity and heart disease

Diet during pregnancy has far-reaching consequences

Researchers found that a diet high in fat and sugar for pregnant women can have a significant negative impact on later generations and increase the risk of obesity among offspring.

A study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that obesity in a pregnant woman can cause genetic abnormalities that are passed on to at least three successive generations through the female bloodline and increase the risk of disease. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Cell Reports".

The risk of heart disease increases in the offspring

The negative effects of improper nutrition by expectant mothers increase the risk of metabolic problems in several successive generations, even if the offspring eat a healthy diet. The results of the study carried out on mice indicate that obesity during pregnancy can cause genetic abnormalities, which are then passed on to at least three generations. This increases the risk of obesity and related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the offspring.

Metabolism Problems Through Inheritance of Mitochondrial DNA?

Research shows that a mother's obesity and associated metabolic problems can be inherited through mitochondrial DNA, which is present in unfertilized eggs or eggs. Mitochondria are often referred to as cell power plants because they provide energy for metabolism and other biochemical processes. The results suggest that egg cells may contain information that programs mitochondrial dysfunction throughout the body, the authors report.

Impact on the next generations

In the study, the mice ate a diet that was around 60 percent fat and 20 percent sugar. This is similar to a typical western diet. Basically, the diet is comparable to a daily consumption of fast food. The offspring of the animals were then fed controlled standard rodent feed, which is rich in protein and low in fat and sugar. Despite the healthy diet, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren developed insulin resistance and other metabolic problems. The researchers found abnormal mitochondria in the muscle and skeletal tissue of the mice.

Effects could be even stronger in humans

"It is important to note that the effects of maternal metabolic syndrome may be greater in humans, in whom the children's diet strongly reflects their parents' diet, than in our mouse model," study author Professor Kelle Moley explains in a press release.

More research is needed

More research is now needed to determine whether a consistent, low-fat, low-sugar diet, and regular exercise can reverse genetic metabolic disorders. The results show how important a healthy and balanced diet is. Over the decades, our diet has deteriorated sharply due to processed foods and fast food, and the effects of this poor diet can be seen in the current obesity crisis. According to the latest study results, this crisis could worsen over the next three generations. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Jessica L. Saben, Anna L. Boudoures, Zeenat Asghar, Andrew Cusumano, Suzanne Scheaffer, Kelle H. Moley: Maternal Metabolic Syndrome Programs Mitochondrial Dysfunction via Germline Changes across Three Generations; Cell Reports (query: June 27, 2019), Cell Reports
  • Pregnant women’s high-fat, high-sugar diets may affect future generations: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (query: 26.07.2019), Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

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