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Improper Diet In Newborn Period Increases Risk of Metabolic Mischief and Obesity, Rat Study Suggests

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Improper Diet In Newborn Period Increases Risk of Metabolic Mischief and Obesity, Rat Study Suggests

According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Researchers, high fat diet after birth is associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity. This study was performed on mice lab models and showed that rats born to mothers fed high-fat diets but who get normal levels of fat in their diets right after birth avoid obesity, while rats born to mothers fed normal-fat diet but who get high levels of fat after birth become obese.  This demonstrates that weight is influenced by both hereditary factors and environmental factors, but the most important are environmental factors.

Furthermore, researchers believe that diet during childhood is essential for health later in life. Kellie L.K. Tamashiro, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that exposure to high fat diet immediately after birth predispose to weight gain and adverse effects on health in later life . In addition, she added that maintaining an appropriate weight status during childhood prevents cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Moreover, Tamashiro believes that obstetricians should refer obese mothers to lose weight and to maintain a healthy lifestyle both during pregnancy and during breastfeeding.

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Researchers at Johns Hopkins have conducted an experiment on mice, in which a part of them were fed with high fat diet and the rest of them with normal fat diet. High fat diet was given to rats both during pregnancy and after birth. Scientists found that newborn rats that were fed with high fat diet developed glucose and leptin intolerance and had an excessive weight gain. Leptin is a hormone secreted by adipocytes that controls appetite. In obese individuals, the signals sent by the hormone do not work properly, and therefore appetite is increased. This is one of the mechanisms of obesity.

Obesity is a risk factor for several diseases: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer etc. Metabolic syndrome is a concept that refers to glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia, hypertension and obesity. There are several criteria of the metabolic syndrome: waist circumference, high triglycerides, decreased HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels. Metabolic syndrome may increase the risk cardiovascular events, because atherosclerosis and hypertension can cause heart attack and stroke. Untreated diabetes leads to vascular complications such as impaired peripheral circulation that finally may lead to leg amputation. It should be noted, however, that obesity and metabolic syndrome can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. In addition to healthy eating, exercise helps prevent cardiovascular diseases and their complications.

The experiments suggest that what mammalian babies, including humans, eat as newborns and young children may be more important to their metabolic future than exposure to unhealthy nutrition in the womb, the Hopkins researchers say.