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High protein/low carbohydrate diet when pregnant leads to higher stress susceptibility in children

03.04.2006


The children of mothers who eat high protein diets in late pregnancy seem to be more susceptible to stress when they grow to adulthood. These are the results of an initial study which a group from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Southampton, led by Dr Rebecca Reynolds, Senior Lecturer, presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Glasgow today.



Dr Reynolds’ group have followed up the children of the ‘Motherwell babies’, whose mothers were advised to eat a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet during pregnancy in the late 1960s.

The mothers were advised to eat one pound (450 gm) of red meat per day, and to avoid carbohydrates-rich foods in an attempt to avoid pregnancy complications. Dr Reynolds’ group have studied 86 offspring of these mothers, who were born in Motherwell in 1967-68. They were asked to perform a standard stress test, including public speaking and mental arithmetic, and their stress hormone levels were measured before and after the tasks. The scientists found that more meat the mother had consumed in late pregnancy, the higher the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the offspring, now in their late 30s. There is some evidence that people with high cortisol levels are at risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes in later life.


Dr Reynolds said: We are looking at how events in pregnancy can affect the health of the offspring years later. This study adds to increasing evidence for the importance of the maternal diet and suggests that one of the ways in which it can have these long term effects is by permanently altering stress hormone levels. Given the recent popularity of low-carbohydrate/high protein diets, such as the Atkins diet, these data also suggest that these diets should be avoided during pregnancy.

Jo Thurston | alfa
Further information:
http://www.euro-endo.org/ece2006/welcome.html

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