A new study has found evidence that eating a poor, unbalanced diet during pregnancy may ultimately leave mothers’ offspring at risk of obesity later in life. The researchers focused on pregnant mice fed two different types of diets, including one with the same type of fatty acid imbalance found in a typical Western diet.
The study points out that while both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for health, they must be consumed at the right proportion, and omega-3 intake exceeds omega-6 intake. omega-3 comes mainly from fish, while omega-6 is found mainly in plant-based foods such as corn, peanut butter, walnuts, almonds and cashews.
While diets with high omega-3 fatty acids and low omega-6 fatty acids are associated with health, diets with high omega-6 and low omega-3 are associated with chronic inflammation and ultimately health problems. Nevertheless, due to its highly processed nature, coupled with the lack of adequate fish intake, the average diet in the West tends to have a high omega-6 and low omega-3 ratio.
According to a study by Hiroshima University, it is this eating habit that is associated with negative outcomes for future generations. The researchers found that by feeding pregnant mice a diet high in omega-6 and low in omega-3, their offspring were more likely to be at risk of obesity, meaning they ate too many high-calorie foods – a result they did not observe in mice fed high-omega-3 fatty acids and low omega-6 fatty acids.
These offspring have also been found to have more mid-brain neurons, producing dopamine, which eventually led them to initially search for and overemphate sugary, fatty foods. The findings raise serious concerns that a typical Western diet may prepare a new generation of people for obesity and diet struggles later in life.
The study further highlights the importance of a healthier diet, which focuses more on fish, healthy oils and leafy foods, and less on corn, corn-based products, cereals and other plants commonly used in highly processed carbohydrate-heavy foods. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fish and omega-3 fatty acids, and in numerous studies, the Mediterranean diet has been repeatedly linked to beneficial health outcomes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the average person can easily increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, EPA, and DHA), and they can add certain foods to their diet, including rapeseed oil, fish and other products, flaxseeds and certain nuts, supplements such as fish oil and algal oil, and certain juices, milk, eggs, and yogurt.