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Can Diabetes Get a Head Start in the Womb?

  By posted Jun 21st 2011
Can Diabetes Get a Head Start in the Womb?

According to a study done on baboons, research has proven that poor diet is linked to disease development subsequently. Women who eat poorly when pregnant maybe likely to give birth to children who are more likely to develop diabetes, according to a research conducted at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. The study found that when baboons were even slightly undernourished while pregnant and nursing, their offspring consistently developed pre-diabetes by the time they reached adolescence.

Previous studies of lab rats have shown diabetes may have prenatal origins; this is the first to show such a connection in primates so closely related to humans.

In the study, Baboons were selected at random, some given a regular diet, and the remaining with 30% less food and nutrition. This diet was similar to how a body reacts when it doesn’t know where the next meal is coming from. The baboons in both groups ate the same diet during the entire pregnancy and while nursing. 

Baboons born to the restricted-diet mothers all showed signs of pre-diabetes even before reaching adolescence. 

Pre-diabetes is a precursor to type 2 diabetes and includes symptoms such as elevated fasting glucose and insulin levels
. The normal- diet offspring did not show any of these signs. 

Type 2 diabetes is caused when the body develops a resistance to insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas and regulates blood sugar. It can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and death when uncontrolled.

A mother who eats poorly while pregnant passes on less sustenance to her unborn child, which can hinder development
. The pancreases of the baboons born to restricted-diet mothers, for example, showed signs of damage that could decrease the organ's ability to produce insulin. Previous studies have found that the pancreases of human diabetes often contain fewer islet cells, which are the cells that secrete insulin.

What this shows is how important the mother’s diet is to the fetus. When today’s crash dieters include pregnant women, it is a cause of concern and it is important to eat healthy, and basically eat, during pregnancy.

Image courtesy: © 
Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images 



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