Chronic disease risk might begin in the womb
Scientists have a hunch that moms might be passing down more to their babies than those big blue eyes or that button nose.
Evidence suggests that moms’ lifestyles before and during pregnancy may be impacting their baby’s metabolism and their lifelong risk for obesity and other chronic diseases, too.
Between 5 and 14 percent of moms in the U.S. are diagnosed with gestational diabetes—putting their babies at risk for birth defects and other conditions such as obesity and diabetes later in life.
“New research is showing that the lifelong risk of obesity and diseases begins in the womb,” said Dr. Nick Broskey, a postdoctoral researcher in the Women’s Health and Reproductive Endocrinology Lab at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
He’s working on the IMAGINE research study, which aims to follow pregnant mothers and their babies after birth to explore how certain characteristics such as metabolism or risk for diabetes may be passed from mom to baby.
“Preliminary data shows that a mom’s health even before pregnancy can really influence a baby’s health,” Broskey said. “That’s why pre-conception fitness and healthy eating habits are important. You can lay the foundation for a healthier pregnancy. As it turns out, the foundation for health — or chronic disease risk — may be laid for the baby just weeks into a mother’s pregnancy.” about how exactly a mom’s health traits may be passed to her baby.
“During the IMAGINE study, we’re measuring body fat percentage, metabolism, and a number of characteristics that we’ll compare between the mom and the baby,” Broskey said, adding that it’s pretty simple for moms to participate and the study takes just two visits to Pennington Biomedical.
“This entirely new field of research is a novel way to approach the prevention of chronic diseases early in life rather than in the later stages,” Broskey said.
Data from this study will provide a new area for clinicians to look into: targeting moms before pregnancy to lower their child’s risk for chronic disease.
“It’s really a new way to think about preventing diseases. If we can help moms improve their health before conception, then we may be able to reduce their baby’s risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease later on in life,” Broskey said.
Pennington biomedical is looking for pregnant moms who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes to join them for the iMAGiNe research study. they will receive up to $250 for participation in the study, along with other in-depth, personalized medical test results that they can share with their doctor. to learn more, call (225) 326-0546 or visit pbrc.edu/iMAGiNE
Dr. Nick broskey, working with the IMAGiNE research study.