Meat-rich diet impacts health of unborn baby?

- Last updated on GMT

A new study will test the impact of an Atkins-type high-meat,
low-carbohydrate diet in late pregnancy on a mother's offspring.

While fans of the Atkins diet are waning, it is thought that some mothers still have an unbalanced diet during pregnancy.

This is important as researchers increasingly believe that conditions in the womb could have a significant impact on risk of adult disease, previously thought to be largely the result of genetics.

Researchers at the Universities of Southampton in the UK and Edinburgh in Scotland will analyse data from a group of almost 1,000 men and women born in Motherwell, Scotland, in the late 1960s, whose mothers' food intakes in pregnancy were recorded by a local obstetrician, Dr Kerr Grieve.

The doctor designed a diet for pregnant women that included one pound of meat per day and low carbohydrate intake, believing that this might help prevent pre-eclampsia, said lead researcher Dr Rebecca Reynolds.

Previous research on this group found that the mothers with less balanced diets had babies who grew up to have higher blood pressure, altered blood sugar levels and higher amounts of stress hormones: all factors which can predispose an individual to diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Dr Reynolds, based at the University of Edinburgh, told that the new resarch would investigate further the hypothesis for high levels of stress hormones and future disease and a potential mechanism for this.

"If the mother eats an unbalanced diet this can trigger her body to produce increased amounts of stress hormones, which can then have long term effects on the stress responses of her unborn baby. These stress responses could be an important part of the link between development in the womb and health in later life."

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