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expert reaction to study looking at high-fat, high-sugar diet in pregnant mice and health of mouse mother and pup

Researchers publishing in the Journal of Physiology examined the effects of a high fat and sugar diet during mouse pregnancy on maternal glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, and on feto-placental glucose metabolism.


Dr Simon Cork, Research Fellow at the Department of Investigative Medicine, Imperial College London, said:

“This paper in mice adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that maternal diet and body composition has significant effects on offspring metabolism.  This study shows that a high-fat and high-sugar diet in pregnant mice was associated with impacts on the mouse offspring’s ability to regulate their metabolism after birth.  Although this paper does not explicitly say what the diet composition was, the authors reference a previous paper of theirs which spells out the diet composition and compares to what they normally eat.  This diet probably has higher amounts of fat than what people would typically eat on a daily basis, but better resembles a ‘Western diet’ than some previous studies.

“Previous studies in animals have shown similar findings, that the offspring of mothers who consumed high calorie foods during pregnancy eat significantly more than offspring from leaner mothers.

“It is important to point out that these results have not been replicated in any significant way in humans as yet.  Furthermore, we don’t yet know whether it is the diet per se that is having the effect, or the body composition of the mother.  But the literature is strongly suggesting that body weight later in life may be pre-programmed from before birth.  Or to put it another way, blame your mother!”


Dr Ian Johnson, Nutrition researcher and Emeritus Fellow, Institute of Food Research (IFR), said:

“The problem with this research is that we are told virtually nothing about the experimental mouse diet, other than that it is high in fat and sugar.  We are not told how it differs from a normal mouse diet, let alone from what may be regarded as a healthy human diet, and so it is very hard to judge whether the study has any implications for human beings.”


* ‘A Western-style obesogenic diet alters maternal metabolic physiology with consequences for fetal nutrient acquisition in mice’ by Barbara Musial et al. will be published in the Journal of Physiology on Thursday 6 April 2017.


Declared interests

Dr Simon Cork: “I’m a member of the Physiological Society, which publishes the Journal of Physiology.”

Dr Ian Johnson: “I have no conflicts of interest.”

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