Washington: Stress during pregnancy could alter the development of the baby and lead to a predisposition towards the development of pathologies during adulthood, a new study in rats has concluded. Experts from the University of Navarra affirmed that the mother's stress, due to socio-economic or psycho-social causes, is associated with the development of pathologies related with obesity.

"The growing prevalence of obesity cannot be solely attributed to genetic factors or poor nutrition, but also to lifestyle and adverse environmental factors," Javier Campion, lead researcher of the new study, said. "They said environmental factors could have a bearing on epigenetic mechanisms, which are responsible for the control of genes beyond the genetic code itself," Campion said.

The objective of the study was to determine the effect on adult rats of moderate chronic stress during the final week's embryonic development on the phenotypical, biochemical and hormonal changes. The researchers studied two groups of rats, with and without stress, and examined in the offspring any alterations in the expression of genes related with obesity and the metabolism of glucocorticoids in the white adipose tissue.

"The general conclusion we obtained was that an adverse situation during intrauterine development could lead to animals, due to the ingestion of a hyper-calorific diet, experiencing a greater increase in body fat and biochemical, hormonal and genetic alterations," Campion said.

In addition, the authors insisted that these changes at adult age induced by the ingestion of a diet rich in fat and sugars provoked obesity and other associated conditions, such as insulin resistance, the result of which is the development of type-2 diabetes.

"These days many women continue with their hectic lives during pregnancy almost up to the birth, without noticing the stress they may be under," the researcher indicated. The experts allege that stress, which during the normal life of a woman may not affect health, could be altering the development of the baby and leading to a predisposition towards the development of pathologies during adulthood, possibly due to epigenetic modification.

"A healthy life during pregnancy does not only consist of a good diet, with a good provision of vitamins and minerals, but also in living a quiet life, without stress," Campion added.

The study was published in the Stress magazine.


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