How Poor Maternal Nutrition Causes Later Life Obesity

March 16, 2011 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 How Poor Maternal Nutrition Causes Later Life Obesity
Children born to malnourished mothers, often reflected in low birth weight, have multiple health challenges facing them in the future, one of which is increased risk for obesity. A new study shows that malnourishment in the womb messes up leptin circuitry1 in the brain following birth, leading to a future adult who “needs” to overeat in order to get a full signal.

Leptin is the primary hormonal signal that enters your brain following a meal and gives a full signal, registering in the hypothalamus gland of your brain. When you are in the womb this system is not yet functioning as nutritional “feeding” is constant through the umbilical cord. When you are born, your full signal wiring has not yet been established. In essence, that part of your hypothalamus gland is like a blank chalkboard.

First milk colostrum contains leptin which travels to your brain and stimulates the formation of leptin-related wiring in your hypothalamus so that you can get a normal full signal. This is why it is vitally important that all children get first milk colostrum from their mother.

This new study indicates an additional problem. It shows that malnourishment during pregnancy, reflected by low birth weight, reduces the number of stem cells in the appetite control center of the hypothalamus gland. This means that even if first milk colostrum is obtained by the newborn baby, there may not be enough stem cells present to properly set up the needed full signal wiring. This means that the baby turned adult will now want to eat more food to satisfy this weak spot in brain architecture, predisposing to obesity.

Low birth weight babies are at epidemic levels due to mothers eating too much junk food and not enough high quality protein, fruit, and vegetables. These problems are not easy to fix and saddle the child with a lifetime of struggles. Once again I make the point that our society needs to do something about this crisis that is staring us in the face. Our collective future, in terms of quality of health and intelligence, depends on it. We need to help those that are not yet able to help themselves.

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ Leptin, Insulin, Low Birth Weight, and Future Obesity  Brain Research  Mina Desaia, Tie Lib, and Michael G. Rossa,

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