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16 November 2020

Study shows dietary supplement during pregnancy may protect offspring from obesity

Researchers demonstrate the effects of maternal nutrition on the long-term health and disease of the next generation.

Mother holding baby

Maternal obesity constitutes the most common risk factor associated with childbirth in developed countries, with direct implications not only for maternal or neonatal morbidity and mortality, but also for healthy ageing across the life course.

It has previously been reported that maternal obesity in pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of premature death in adult children, specifically as a result of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. It is therefore crucial that we understand the consequences of the obesity epidemic, not just in terms of pregnancy outcome, but also in terms of the potential impact on the health of the next generation.

Diet and nutrition in pregnancy and early post-natal life are modifiable risk factors for offspring health and offer the opportunity to stem the likelihood of childhood obesity and disease in adulthood. This has been extensively supported by animal studies, which have been able to investigate the mechanistic effects of altered maternal nutrition during critical windows of development, such as pregnancy and lactation.

A team of researchers, led by Dr Paul Taylor from the School of Life Course Sciences, have recently identified a candidate compound, polydextrose, found to improve the maternal metabolic profile in a mouse model of obesity in pregnancy. Polydextrose is a soluble dietary fibre, resistant to digestion, and with probiotic properties that promote healthy bacteria in the gut.

Despite recent advances in microbiome research, many fundamental questions about the dynamics, function and influence of the gut microbiome remain unresolved, especially around pregnancy and parturition. Our research implicates interplay between the maternal microbiome and offspring microbiome which may confer protection against offspring disease.

Dr Paul Taylor, School of Life Course Sciences

The research will readily translate to clinical studies in obese pregnant women, particularly at the Women’s Health Academic Centre at King’s, which has extensive experience conducting large scale trials.

Read the paper in the International Journal of Obesity.

In this story

Paul Taylor

Professor in Women's Health