Babies born to obese women often go on to become obese as well, but scientists in Colorado may have found a way to counter that trend.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus discovered that increasing a specific hormone during pregnancy can reduce or eliminate the chances that the baby will become obese.
"In the U.S., nearly two-thirds of women enter pregnancy either overweight or obese," said the study’s senior author Professor Thomas Jansson, MD, PhD at the CU School of Medicine. “At the same time, the baby is often born larger with more fat than normal.”
Jansson said it sets up a vicious cycle that drives the obesity epidemic.
High levels of the hormone Adiponectin, which makes people sensitive to insulin, can guard against obesity and diabetes, Jansson said.
"Adiponectin acts as a brake on the amount of nutrients passed between a pregnant woman and her fetus," researchers stated.
The researchers gave obese, pregnant mice Adiponectin during the last four days of their 20-day gestational periods.
"It completely reversed all the negative effects on the placenta," Jansson said. "The pups of the obese mice had completely normal weights... We were able to preempt all the usual negative consequences of these kinds of pregnancies."
“This hormone or a similar agent could feasibly do the same thing for humans that it did for mice,” Jansson said.
Jansson said more work needs to be done to track the long-term effects.
The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The co-authors include, Fredrick J. Rosario, PhD, instructor at CU Anschutz, Professor Theresa Powell, PhD, of CU Anschutz and Irving L. M. Aye of Cambridge University in England.