According to researchers, a high-fat and high-carbohydrate diet triggers oxidative stress during pregnancy that can take a toll on the offspring's weight and increase the risk for glucose intolerance later in life.
Hence, experts theorize that women who take antioxidants prior to and during pregnancy could be protecting their babies from the clutches of obesity and diabetes.
Senior author of the study, Rebecca A. Simmons, M.D., a neonatologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia stated, "We already know that there are critical periods during human development that influence the later development of obesity.
"This research suggests that if we can prevent inflammation and oxidative stress during pregnancy, we may lower the risk that a child will develop obesity .”
Impact of antioxidants in animal study examined
In a bid to examine the impact of antioxidants before and during pregnancy on mitigating the onset of diabetes and obesity, the researchers conducted an animal study.
In a laboratory setting the scientists fed four groups of rodents either a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, or a healthier and a more balanced diet.
As a part of the study, the researchers replicated a Western style diet to the first group and assigned them to a high fat, high-carbohydrate while the control group was fed a more balanced diet.
The remaining two groups (one fed a Western and the other a control diet) received extra antioxidants with their food.
Outcome of the study
The study found that rats given the unhealthy "Western" diet without antioxidants exhibited significantly higher rates of inflammation and oxidative stress and their offsprings were larger and displayed elevated rates of glucose intolerance.
In contrast, the rodents assigned to the Western diet supplemented with antioxidants, however, delivered offsprings with markedly lower oxidative stress rates, no obesity and better glucose tolerance.
The effects of the antioxidants lasted for over two months of age.
"These results suggest that if we prevent obesity, inflammation and oxidative stress in pregnant animals, we can prevent obesity in the offspring," said Simmons.
A word of caution
Though the biological research may have implications for lowering obesity rates in children, experts concede that there is need for further human trials to substantiate the findings.
They caution women against the indiscriminate use of large doses of antioxidant vitamins.
The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
The study has been published in the journal 'Diabetes.'