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14 June 2011
Stillbirth and a high-fat diet

Eating a fatty diet has negative consequences for placental health regardless of whether the mother is obese or slender, researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University have discovered.

Their study, in the journal Endocrinology, explains that a typical American diet, which is high in fat, decreases blood flow from the mother to the placenta, the temporary organ that nourishes the unborn fetus. Prior to this study, exactly how a fatty diet contributed to stillbirth was unclear.

"Maternal diet during pregnancy has a profound influence on both placental and fetal development. The high-calorie, high-fat diet common in our society has negative effects on placental function and may be a significant contributor to adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as stillbirth," said Antonio Frias, the study's principal investigator.

Other studies have shown that nearly all adverse outcomes during pregnancy - abnormal fetal growth, preeclampsia, preterm labor and stillbirth - are in some way associated with an abnormally developed, or damaged, placenta. In addition, maternal obesity has been associated with placental inflammation and dysfunction and an increased risk of stillbirth.

The researchers hypothesized that eating a diet high in fat during pregnancy also may increase the risk of placental inflammation and the risk of stillbirth. They found that monkeys that ate a high-fat diet experienced a significant decrease in blood flow from the uterus to the placenta and a rise in placental inflammation. Interestingly, this was the case regardless of whether the monkeys were obese or slender. Future studies are planned to investigate exactly how a high-fat diet decreases placental blood flow and the impact of dietary changes and diet supplementation on improving pregnancy outcomes in both monkeys and humans.

Related:
Researchers link placental bacteria to preterm births
Miscarriage prevented with cholesterol drug

Source: Oregon Health & Science University


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