Inadequate nutrition of the mother during pregnancy and lactation decisively influences the changes that occur in the baby's DNA at this stage of life, and is associated with future pathologies in adulthood. Researchers of the Center de Recherche de l'Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epinière and of the Unité de Nutrition Humaine, have carried out a study in mice that has shown the repercussions that changes in the gene of leptin (hormone that regulates the appetite) have on the metabolism of baby.

The scientists associated the alterations they observed with the low-protein diet during the perinatal period with changes in the gene for leptin, a hormone crucial for the body's energy balance.

To carry out the study, the pregnant mouse females were divided into two groups, and a group was fed a diet low protein (10%), and the other group (control group) with a diet that included 22% protein. After finishing the lactation, all the mouse pups were fed with the diet of the control group. The results showed that mice whose mothers had been fed a low protein diet were thinner and had metabolic disorders when they became adults. The scientists associated the alterations they observed with the low-protein diet during the perinatal period with changes in the gene for leptin, a hormone that is also present in breast milk, which is crucial for the body's energy balance and which is involved in diseases such as obesity and diabetes, since it regulates the reserve of fats and informs the brain when the reserve is covered and, therefore, it is not necessary to eat more food.

The work reveals that the molecular processes that occur during the perinatal period leave an imprint on the genes of the fetus, which would remain throughout his life. Understanding the mechanism of this process is essential to determine strategies for the prevention of metabolic diseases, and it would also contribute to improving the techniques of assisted reproduction, as well as the appropriate feeding guidelines for premature babies.

In the last decade several studies have been developed that have shown that the type of diet of the mother, both during pregnancy and during lactation, played an important role in the development of diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension when the child arrived to adulthood. Vulnerability to these diseases begins in the mother's womb, since the poor diet of the mother during critical periods of development can hinder the formation and / or function of certain organs, such as the pancreas, which can lead to metabolic disorders . Food in the first stage of life also causes chemical changes in the genes, conditioning their expression and function.

Sources: CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange) (2011, July 4). Maternal nutrition: What impact does it have on gene expression? ScienceDaily

Healthy Pregnancy 101 (November 2019).