BALTIMORE, Md. (WMAR) - A recent study performed by Johns Hopkins suggests what a child eats after birth and while in the womb could affect the risk of obesity.
The Johns Hopkins study, performed on rats, showed babies fed high-fat diets but who get normal levels of fat in their diets right after birth avoid obesity and its related disorders as adults. Babies exposed to a normal-fat diet in the womb but nursed by rat mothers on high-fat diets, according to Johns Hopkins researchers, become obese by the time they are weaned.
Researchers argue the experiments suggest what mammalian babies (including humans) eat could determine their metabolic future.
"Our research confirms that exposure to a high-fat diet right after birth has significant consequences for obesity," says Kellie L.K. Tamashiro, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study published online in the journal Diabetes. "But it also suggests that by putting children on a healthy diet in infancy and early childhood, we can intervene and potentially prevent a future of obesity, diabetes and heart disease."
Tamashiro says the research may help obstetricians as they rethink diet guidelines for pregnant women. She argues obese mothers who switch to healthier diets during pregnancy and then maintain them while nursing may be able to help their children avoid the road to obesity.
"Obesity rates have increased threefold over the last 20 years," she says. "We know it's not because of genetics because our genes don't change that quickly. So we are focusing on the developmental environment. Obese children are developing metabolic disorders earlier, affecting their quality of life and health over the long term. Prevention is probably the best strategy we have."