11 March 2011

Low birth weight infants "programmed" for obesity

by Kate Melville

When mothers have poor or inadequate nutrition, their newborns are "programmed" to eat more because they develop less neurons in the region of the brain that controls food intake, say researchers in the journal Brain Research.

In the past, other studies have found a small size at birth followed by accelerated catch-up growth is associated with an increased risk of adult obesity. In the new study, the UCLA Medical Center researchers found less division and differentiation of the neural stem cells of a newborn with low birth weight as compared to normal birth weight.

In addition to obesity, the researchers say that reduced neural stem cell division and differentiation may also be associated with cognitive and behavioral alterations.

According to research leader Mina Desai, the study demonstrates the importance of maternal nutrition and health in reducing obesity. "Obesity and its related diseases are the leading cause of death in our society, yet we have few effective strategies for prevention or treatment. These studies suggest maternal nutrition could play a critical role in preventing obesity and related disease," she noted.

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Source: Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute