London: Maternal diet quality during pregnancy is fundamental to foetal growth as well as insulin and glucose levels at birth, a new study has concluded. Increased insulin and glucose levels are indicators of diabetes and metabolic syndrome risk.

Previous studies have already outlined that when the mother does not consume enough food during pregnancy, the glucose supply to other tissues is reduced in the foetus to ensure that the brain receives the correct amount. In turn, this causes reduced foetal growth. This adaptive mechanism is known as Barker's thrifty phenotype hypothesis.

"However, the effects of an imbalance between fats, proteins and carbohydrates are not as well-known. In others words, the effect during pregnancy of Western diets that vary greatly from the Mediterranean variety are not well-known," Francisco J. Sanchez-Muniz, researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid and one of the authors of the study, explained to SINC.

The new study forms part of the Estudio Merida, a macro investigation that analyses different parameters in newborns and their mothers. In this way, the new study reveals that when pregnant women ingest adequate energy quantities, their children are born at a normal weight of around 3.3 kilograms to 3.5 kilograms.

"Nonetheless, more than half of women have low quality diets that include a high amount of animal products rich in saturated fats yet a low amount of carbohydrates from vegetables and pulses. Furthermore, more than a third of women displayed eating habits that differ greatly from the Mediterranean diet," noted Sanchez-Muniz.

"It is surprising that women do not change their eating habits or diet quality during pregnancy," he said.

The experts stated that when a woman does not eat properly during pregnancy, the child is born with a diabetogenic profile, meaning high levels of serum glucose and insulin and a marker of insulin resistance. This confirms the influence of the diet on foetal pancreas development and glucose and insulin concentration at birth.

"It is vital to make mothers aware of the importance of eating well during pregnancy with a balanced Mediterranean diet," the researcher said.

"We must also push for studies amongst the same population group in order to understand how children will develop over time and thus avoid, or at least mitigate, the development of high prevalence diseases within our society," they concluded.

The finding was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


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