- The average American diet has 37% fat content. The recommended amount is 25-35% according to the 2010 dietary guidelines. Four studies have shown the bad impact that high fat consumption during pregnancy has on the fetus.
- Mice fed 45 % fat diets during pregnancy demonstrated deficits in memory with higher anxiety and depression scores as well! What’s worse is there was epigenetic effect as well – the following generation of mice displayed memory loss and behavioral change as well. Here is the link: http://www.abstractsonline.com/Plan/ViewAbstract.aspx?mID=3527&sKey=f830412f-200d-4363-8e53-e8af37236afe&cKey=f00a8887-5be2-467f-a500-480d7b3bcac8&mKey=54c85d94-6d69-4b09-afaa-502c0e680ca7
- A study in rats also showed that the mother’s diet, if high in saturated fat and branched chain amino acids(BCAA), would prime the microglia of their offspring. Microglia are the mmune cells of the brain and will secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines in the hippocampus (a learning center). Also high levels of BCAA compete with tryptophan transport across the blood brain barrier. When there is less tryptophan in the brain, the brain makes less serotonin which then results in anxiety! The pups were found to have depression and anxiety scores that were much higher than pups born to mothers who ate a more fat-restricted diet. Here is the link: http://www.abstractsonline.com/Plan/ViewAbstract.aspx?sKey=8d86b6b5-65d9-4dc4-9b97-53b5a5db4027&cKey=529d5e00-6f15-426c-8ee3-c9c61424e666&mKey=54c85d94-6d69-4b09-afaa-502c0e680ca7
- Other studies demonstrated that a high fat diet in the pregnant mother causes the down-regulation of oxytocin systems in the brain of offspring and causes anxiety to be prevalant in the progeny. This effect does not occur in the pups of normal fed pregnant female rats. In this study it was found that the fewer numbers of oxytocin-positive neurons within the PVN (paraventricular nucleus), the more anxious the rats were as adults. Oxytocin projections to the brainstem acts as an appetite suppressant, hence leading to overeating in the progeny of overfed pregnant females. Oxytocin also plays a role in maternal behaviors as well. Mother rats literally groom their daughters to be attentive or neglectful mothers themselves and this is associated with the presence of normal numbers of oxytocin projections. If a rat has fewer oxytocin projections, they will be neglectful parents more likely. Hence multiple pathways of brain function may be affected in the young of a high-fat diet mother. Here is a link: http://www.abstractsonline.com/Plan/ViewAbstract.aspx?sKey=93a801db-9e49-4d58-b917-97948ec69a18&cKey=74611e5c-0fa7-4ff0-9276-b94be31da2df&mKey=54c85d94-6d69-4b09-afaa-502c0e680ca7
- These effects also occur in primate studies as well – monkeys whose mothers are fed high fat diets have fewer dopamine projections to the nucleus accumbens ‘reward center’ of the brain. As a result, they have a reward deficiency when they eat food and don’t get satiated at a normal level of food. Rather, they must take in more food to get the same amount of reward as another monkey that came from a normal-fed mother and had normal dopamine projections in the brain. Thus they get fatter.
- Dietary guidelines recommend a diet of 25-27% fat. See this link for the recommendations of a standard diet: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf However, the average person takes in 37% fat or more!! See this link showing how much we really take in: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/140/10/1832.long
- We eat more than we think. We need to recognize that our food choices and stress patterns can affect our children through epigenetic mechanisms especially. We can set up our children for failure. These studies are done in standard models for humans and show the impact high fat diets in pregnancy have on their children: Memory deficits, anxiety, depression, and future weight problems may echo the studies in rat and monkey populations. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, for it seems that overweight parents have overweight children. Food for thought!!
Plant based foods are becoming popular, and one in particular, pea protein, is becoming prominent as it has high amounts of protein in it. It is made from dehydrated ground yellow split peas and is added to a variety of powders, beverages, and foods. It has a high amount of the branched chain amino acids such as isoleucine, valine, and leucine. These branched chain amino acids decrease muscle breakdown during exercise. The amount of protein per unit ounce is very concentrated by as much as twice as the underlying component peas and is less costly than other protein mixes, such as whey protein.