In March’s School of Medicine Paper of the Month, OHSU researchers reveal important consequences of maternal diet on fetal development. Their article, entitled, “Maternal High Fat Diet Is Associated with Decreased Plasma n–3 Fatty Acids and Fetal Hepatic Apoptosis in Nonhuman Primates,” was published in the online journal PLoS ONE. The research team was composed of a collaborative effort between members of several OHSU labs, including Wilmon Grant, MCR, PhD candidate; Melanie Gillingham, PhD, assistant professor in the department of Molecular & Medical Genetics; Ayesha Batra, Research Associate; Natasha Fewkes, MD Fellow; Sarah Comstock, PhD candidate; Diana Takahashi, Senior Research Associate; Theodore Braun MD, PhD candidate; Kevin Grove, PhD; Jacob Friedman, PhD; and Daniel Marks, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics.
Using a unique nonhuman primate model, the researchers measured circulating concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in the plasma of pregnant moms and their fetuses. They found that the levels of these beneficial fatty acids were significantly reduced in moms fed a high-fat diet, when compared with normal, control diet individuals. These fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are important for multiple developmental processes, including brain development and liver function. The researchers confirmed this importance by showing that the reduced levels of omega-3 fatty acids correlate to an increase in liver disease.
Interestingly, the authors also found that the effects of the high-fat diet were reversible, if the diet of an obese mom was switched to a low-fat control diet during pregnancy. This included a return to normal levels of plasma omega-3 fatty acids in both the mother and the fetus, as well as normal liver cell functions.
Read more on the School of Medicine website.