Mother’s fat metabolism in early pregnancy linked to baby’s weight

Maternal fat metabolism in the early stages of pregnancy can influence weight and neurodevelopment in a baby by the time they are two years old.

By examining patterns of fetal-abdominal growth, scientists at Oxford University developed a way to identify early prenatal indicators of later health.

Prenatal growth is from blood flow and nutrient transfer from the placenta. It suggests a complex interaction between maternal and fetal nutrition at a very early point, which has implications for postnatal weight and health.

Dr. Stephen Kennedy, who co-led an investigation to study the origins of childhood obesity, said it had provided valuable new insights into childhood obesity, one of the most pressing public health issues facing world governments.

International study

There was a study on fetal ultrasound scans and metabolomic analysis of pregnant women to see if there was a link between metabolism in early pregnancy and BMI. The prospective observational study was conducted with 3,598 pregnant women with a body mass index of less than 35 kg/m2 and aged 18 years or older from six countries: Brazil, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. Women were monitored through regular fetal ultrasound scans during pregnancy and metabolomics analysis to analyze early pregnancy maternal blood and umbilical cord venous blood samples at the time of birth.

Fetuses develop rapidly in the first 1/4 of their pregnancy, each with its growth pattern. Growth in the 20-25 week period follows four trajectories, and these traits align with fetus-placenta blood flow. Different growth patterns result in different outcomes during early childhood.

A total of 709 maternal metabolites had the potential to cause a faltering growth phenotype, while 54 might respond with an early accelerating growth phenotype. On the flip side, 31 metabolites could harm faltering growth and 76 on early accelerating development.

The 5-hydroxy-eicosatetraenoic acid and 11 phosphatidylcholines are linked to oxylipin or saturated fatty acids in the Maternal metabolite signatures, and chlorothalonil is highly abundant in the early accelerating growth phenotype group.

The study provides evidence for patterns of fetal abdominal growth and placental transfer in the short term and how these effects relate to a child’s long-term health. The findings show the importance of maternal diet, lipid metabolism, and other health factors early in pregnancy.

The first author, José Villar, MD, says he is pleased that the study complements his previous work. His research illustrates how babies’ bodies and brains grow separately from the womb.

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