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Saturday, 29 July 2006 09:19
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Diet 'affects arteries of foetus'
Researchers from the University of Southampton have warned that mothers-to-be who diet during pregnancy are putting their children at risk of heart attacks and strokes later in life.

In this latest study the researchers used ultrasound scans to measure the artery wall thickness of more than 200 nine-year-old children whose mothers had taken part in a nutrition study during pregnancy.

They found that, on average, the lower the mother's intake during pregnancy, the thicker the artery wall of the child.

The link was closely correlated, with mothers eating the fewest calories producing children who had the thickest arteries.

These children, they said, are at greater risk of developing atherosclerosis - or the thickening of the artery walls due to fatty deposits.

But the researchers were unable to determine the optimum number of calories to be eaten per day to prevent the effect.

Experts usually say a pregnant woman needs to eat around 2,500 calories a day.

The researchers said it did not matter what proportion of the calorie intake came from fat, protein or carbohydrate, it was the total calorie intake that was important.

The findings were also true regardless of social class, smoking or exercise habits, weight or sickness in pregnancy.

Researcher Dr Catharine Gale said: "Atherosclerosis is a progressive condition that starts early in life.

"Our study provides direct evidence for the first time in humans that the mother's diet in pregnancy might influence the child's susceptibility to atherosclerosis.

"The exact reasons why lower maternal energy intake in pregnancy was linked to increased arterial wall thickness in the children are unclear.

"One possibility is that maternal energy intake in pregnancy may affect the child's blood cholesterol concentrations.

"Children who have higher blood cholesterol concentrations are at increased risk of atherosclerosis."

A spokeswoman for the baby charity Tommy's said: "With an increasing number of celebrity parents claiming to have shed their babyweight weeks after giving birth, many women are confused by what is a healthy amount of weight to gain during pregnancy.

"This can have a detrimental effect on the health of their unborn baby."

The study, which was funded by the Medical Research Council and the charity WellChild, is published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.


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