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Poor diet in pregnancy, poor heart health for infants

Baboon study links low-calorie intake to long-term risks

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7:00am, November 11, 2016
MRI of baboon hearts

CHANGE OF HEART  A cardiac MRI shows how the heart of a baboon born to a mother moderately undernourished during pregnancy has a spherical shape (right). It pumps blood less efficiently than the hearts of offspring with well-fed mothers (left).

Mothers who don’t eat enough during pregnancy could give birth to babies with long-lasting heart problems. The results from a new study in primates add to accumulating evidence that a mother’s nutrition has more bearing on her child’s health than previously thought.

“We pass more biological milestones during development than we will ever pass again in our entire lives,” says Peter Nathanielsz, coauthor of the study published November 6 in the Journal of Physiology. And during those critical nine months, calorie intake at the extremes — too many or too few — appears to have a lifelong influence on newborn weight, future metabolism and chronic health problems (SN: 1/23/16, p. 22).

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