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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersDevelopmental TimelineFertilizationFirst TrimesterSecond TrimesterThird TrimesterFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFemale Reproductive SystemBeginning Cerebral HemispheresA Four Chambered HeartFirst Detectable Brain WavesThe Appearance of SomitesBasic Brain Structure in PlaceHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearFetal sexual organs visibleBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsInner Ear Bones HardenSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateFetal liver is producing blood cellsBrain convolutions beginBrain convolutions beginImmune system beginningWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisWhite fat begins to be madePeriod of rapid brain growthFull TermHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningLungs begin to produce surfactant
CLICK ON weeks 0 - 40 and follow along every 2 weeks of fetal development


Bad diet in pregnancy 'programs' bad health later

Pregnant and eating a high fat, high sugar diet leads to damaging changes in mom and baby. It may even lead to health complications being "programmed" in both later.

In a study carried out in pregnant mice, a research team found how an obesity-causing (or obesogenic) high fat, high sugar diet disrupts nutrient uptake in a pregnant woman's body. Changes were found just prior to birth that make her more susceptible to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and fat accumulation later in her life.

The exact impact on a fetus is harder to measure, but metabolic dysfunction in a pregnant woman detracts from the flow of nutrients to her fetus — affecting its growth and metabolism.

The evidence explains why obese mothers, or women who eat obesogenic diets in pregnancy, tend to have babies that also become obese, have hypertension and type 2 diabetes as adults. A diet high in fat and sugar distorts the mother's allocation of nutrients away from her fetus, and into her own muscle and fat cells.

A team of researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, carried out the study which appears in the Journal of Physiology. Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri PhD, is the lead author and conducted her research at St John's College, Cambridge. Her findings are especially relevant for women in western countries which have access to high fat foods.

"In places like the UK, the US and Australia, many women of child-bearing age are eating higher amounts of fat and sugar than National Dietary Recommendations. We know obesity in pregnancy is a risk factor for health complications for mother and baby, both, during and after pregnancy. This study offers insight into the mechanisms operating that may cause this."

Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri PhD, Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

The study involved feeding a diet that contained high amounts of fat and sugar to pregnant mice. Then, researchers assessed the impact of fat and sugar on her metabolism as compared to mice fed a more balanced diet. Overall, researchers found excessive consumption of sugar and fat compromises a mother's glucose tolerance and her sensitivity to insulin — the hormone that controls blood sugar levels.

Specifically, the mother mouse's ability to respond to insulin was reduced in her muscles and fat, which take up glucose from her blood. Her liver sensitivity to insulin was also increased, which responded by reducing glucose. Reducing glucose levels that otherwise would support her and her fetus.

High fat, high sugar diets change how proteins control fat storage, leading to a mother's increased body fat. All of these effects promote a "pre-diabetic state" in moms, resembling gestational diabetes — a pregnancy complication affecting about 5% of women in the UK. Obesogenic diets exaggerate natural metabolic changes associated with pregnancy in effects that may add to a mother's health complications after she delivers — a phenomenon referred to as a "metabolic memory" — putting her at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular problems later in her own life.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), if before pregnancy, you had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less that 18.5, you would do well to gain 28-40 pounds during pregnancy. But with an overweight BMI of 25 to 30, your weight gain should range between 25 to 50 pounds to insure the correct amount of nutrients you eat actually reach your baby. "During a normal pregnancy, the mother's body will change the way it handles nutrients so that some can be freed up for her fetus. The mother's metabolism is shifted to an insulin resistant, glucose intolerant state, such that her own glucose use is limited in favor of fetal supply," explains Sferruzzi-Perri.

The study revealed how a mother's metabolism stores nutrients in her tissues, instead of allocating and sending nutrients to her fetus — when eating a diet high in fat and sugar.

Because the placenta plays an important role in diffusing nutrients from maternal blood and allocating them to the fetus, baby mice of moms fed an obesogenic diet are born a normal size. However, because they also received a lower amount of nutrients, they did not develop normally and are more susceptible to metabolic dysfunction later in life.

"We still don't know what the exact consequences for the fetus are, but our findings match existing research which already suggests the individual will suffer from metabolic problems during adulthood. Changes to the nutrient and oxygen supply, at a stage when individual organs are developing, can cause a permanent change in the structure and function of specific tissues."

Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri PhD

Key points
• In the Western world, obesogenic diets containing high fat and high sugar (HFHS) are commonly consumed during pregnancy, although their effects on the metabolism of the mother, in relation to feto-placental glucose utilization and growth, are unknown.

• In the present study, the consumption of an obesogenic HFHS diet compromised maternal glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in late pregnancy in association with dysregulated lipid and glucose handling by the dam [female mouse].

• These maternal metabolic changes induced by HFHS feeding were related to altered feto-placental glucose metabolism and growth.

• A HFHS diet during pregnancy therefore causes maternal metabolic dysfunction with consequences for maternal nutrient allocation for fetal growth.

• These findings have implications for the health of women and their infants, who consume obesogenic diets during pregnancy.

In the Western world, obesogenic diets containing high fat and high sugar (HFHS) are commonly consumed during pregnancy. However, the impacts of a HFHS diet during pregnancy on maternal insulin sensitivity and signalling in relation to feto-placental growth and glucose utilization are unknown. The present study examined the effects of a HFHS diet during mouse pregnancy on maternal glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, as well as, on feto-placental glucose metabolism. Female mice were fed a control or HFHS diet from day (D) 1 of pregnancy (term = D20.5). At D16 or D19, dams were assessed for body composition, metabolite and hormone concentrations, tissue abundance of growth and metabolic signalling pathways, glucose tolerance and utilization and insulin sensitivity. HFHS feeding perturbed maternal insulin sensitivity in late pregnancy; hepatic insulin sensitivity was higher, whereas sensitivity of the skeletal muscle and white adipose tissue was lower in HFHS than control dams. These changes were accompanied by increased adiposity and reduced glucose production and glucose tolerance of HFHS dams. The HFHS diet also disturbed the hormone and metabolite milieu and altered expression of growth and metabolic signalling pathways in maternal tissues. Furthermore, HFHS feeding was associated with impaired feto-placental glucose metabolism and growth. A HFHS diet during pregnancy therefore causes maternal metabolic dysfunction with consequences for maternal nutrient allocation for fetal growth. These findings have implications for the health of women and their infants, who consume HFHS diets during pregnancy.
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Apr 10, 2017   Fetal Timeline   Maternal Timeline   News   News Archive   

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