Navigation Links
Reducing diet early in pregnancy stunts fetal brain development

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, U.S.A. (Jan. 17, 2011) Eating less during early pregnancy impaired fetal brain development in a nonhuman primate model, researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio reported today.

The researchers found decreased formation of cell-to-cell connections, cell division and amounts of growth factors in the fetuses of mothers fed a reduced diet during the first half of pregnancy. "This is a critical time window when many of the neurons as well as the supporting cells in the brain are born," said Peter Nathanielsz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Research in the Health Science Center School of Medicine.

The study included collaborators at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR) in San Antonio and Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. The team compared two groups of baboon mothers located at SFBR's Southwest National Primate Research Center. One group ate as much as they wanted during the first half of pregnancy while the other group was fed 30 percent less, a level of nutrition similar to what many prospective mothers in the U.S. experience.

Hundreds of genes involved

"Our collaboration allowed us to determine that the nutritional environment impacts the fetal brain at both the cellular and molecular levels," said SFBR's Laura Cox, Ph.D. "That is, we found dysregulation of hundreds of genes, many of which are known to be key regulators in cell growth and development, indicating that nutrition plays a major role during fetal development by regulating the basic cellular machinery."

Moderate versus severe reduction

It is known that marked nutrient restriction, such as in famine conditions, adversely affects development of the fetal brain. Senior author Thomas McDonald, Ph.D., also of the Health Science Center, said the study "is the first demonstration of major effects caused by the levels of food insecurity that occur in sections of U.S. society and demonstrates the vulnerability of the fetus to moderate reduction in nutrients."

Dr. Nathanielsz noted:

  • In teenage pregnancy, the developing fetus is deprived of nutrients by the needs of the growing mother;
  • In pregnancies late in reproductive life, a woman's arteries are stiffer and the blood supply to the uterus decreases, inevitably affecting nutrient delivery to the fetus;
  • Diseases such as preeclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnancy can lead to decreased function of the placenta with decreased delivery of nutrients to the fetus.

'Lifetime effects'

"This study is a further demonstration of the importance of good maternal health and diet," Dr. McDonald said. "It supports the view that poor diets in pregnancy can alter development of fetal organs, in this case the brain, in ways that will have lifetime effects on offspring, potentially lowering IQ and predisposing to behavioral problems."

Developmental programming of lifetime health has been shown to play a role in later development of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In light of this new finding, research should focus on effects of developmental programming in the context of autism, depression, schizophrenia and other brain disorders.

Mother's protection

The study, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also forces researchers to review the commonly held notion that during pregnancy the mother is able to protect the fetus from dietary challenges such as poor nutrition, Dr. McDonald said.

The nonhuman primate model's brain developmental stages are very close to those of human fetuses, the researchers noted. Most previous research in this area was conducted in rats.


Contact: Will Sansom
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Related biology news :

1. Reducing emissions from shipping: Commissions Joint Research Centre sets out some options
2. Estrogen alone is effective for reducing breast cancer risk
3. UV light nearly doubles vacuums effectiveness in reducing carpet microbes
4. $1.5M grant funds research aimed at reducing strokes in children with sickle cell disease
5. Reducing gene-damaging impurities in medicines
6. Mother Nature to provide an environmentally friendly method for reducing mosquitoes
7. Reducing fossil energy use on the farm
8. Natural S-Equol suggested as critical component in SE5-OH for reducing menopausal hot flushes
9. Pennsylvania makes inroads into reducing child obesity
10. Hydrocooling shows promise for reducing strawberry weight loss, bruising
11. Researchers look at reducing yield loss for crops under stress
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... , Nov. 17, 2015  Vigilant Solutions announces ... joined its Board of Directors. --> ... after recently retiring from the partnership at TPG Capital, ... companies with over $140 Billion in revenue.  He founded ... across all the TPG companies, from 1997 to 2013.  ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... BOSTON , Nov. 12, 2015  A golden ... for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) has provided a new ... Boston Children,s Hospital, the Broad Institute of MIT and ... Brazil . Cell, ... some dogs "escape" the disease,s effects. The Boston Children,s ...
(Date:11/11/2015)... 2015   MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based eClinical ... is pleased to announce that it will be a Sponsor ... event, to be held November 17-19 in Hamburg ... demonstrations of iMedNet , MedNet,s easy-to-use, proven ... has been able to deliver time and cost savings ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... -- Champions Oncology, Inc. (CSBR), engaged in the development of ... and use of oncology drugs, today announced that ... at the LD MICRO Investor Conference on Wednesday, December ... conference, held at the Luxe Sunset Bel Air Hotel ... feature 200 small/micro-cap companies and is expected to host ...
(Date:11/30/2015)...  HUYA Bioscience International, the leader in accelerating global ... today announced it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding ... collaboration between KDDF and HUYA with the ultimate goal ... for the global market. China,s ... innovative preclinical and clinical stage compounds. The company advances ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Germany , November 30, 2015 ... Vienna, Austria to be held December 1-4, ... in Vienna, Austria to be ... owned subsidiary of Vycor Medical, Inc. ("Vycor") (OTCQB: VYCO), announced ... Therapy Suite at the 3rd European Congress of NeuroRehabilitation ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... and PETACH TIKVAH, Israel , Nov. 30, ... BCLI ), a leading developer of adult stem cell technologies ... Cell Therapeutics Ltd., has been awarded an additional grant of ... the Chief Scientist (OCS). This grant, the second this year, ... activities to approximately $1.8 million (approximately NIS7 million).  ...
Breaking Biology Technology: