Researchers have discovered a link between the amount of blood flowing through the liver of the unborn baby in late pregnancy and the diet of expectant mums. In slim mothers and those who eat an unbalanced diet the amount of blood flowing to the liver is increased. While this ‘liver-sparing’ pattern of blood flow is thought to protect the foetus from a nutrient deficit, the researchers believe it may also affect liver function in later life, increasing the risk of adult heart disease and diabetes in the offspring.
To determine how a mother’s diet and slimness might have long-term effects on the health of her baby, researchers from the Universities of Southampton, Bergen and Oslo used ultrasound to measure blood flow to the liver of the developing baby late in pregnancy. The researchers studied a group of 381 healthy babies whose mothers are part of a large project studying nutrition before and during pregnancy.
Their findings, published this month in the American journal Circulation Research, suggest that the babies of slimmer mothers with lower body fat stores and those eating an unbalanced diet have greater liver blood flow and divert less blood away from the liver in late pregnancy. This change in blood flow may cause subtle changes in the development of the liver and alter the baby’s ability to cope with a high-fat “Western” diet in later life, thereby predisposing to adult heart disease and diabetes. The research suggests that improving a mother’s nutrition before she conceives could have lifelong benefits for the health of her baby.
Sarah Watts | alfa
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