Antioxidants during pregnancy may reduce type 2 diabetes risk in offspring

A diet that is rich in antioxidants and low in fat and carbohydrates may help pregnant women protect their unborn children from future obesity and type 2 diabetes risk, according to a new study from Philadelphia Children's Hospital researchers.

Previous research has shown that a mother's diet can play a major role in the metabolic function of her children. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a fatty diet during pregnancy alters the genes of children, predisposing them to diabetes.

However, the new study, which was published in the journal Diabetes, is among the first to show that certain nutrients can actually protect developing children from future diabetes risk.

For the study, researchers fed two groups of female mice high-fat foods to simulate a Western-style diet. However, they added high levels of antioxidants to the food of one group. After these mice gave birth, the researchers took measures of glucose tolerance and oxidative stress from their offspring.

They found that the newborns of mice fed the antioxidant-enriched food were significantly healthier. They had less fat, better glucose tolerance and fewer signs of oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is an important factor in the fight against type 2 diabetes. It causes inflammation throughout the body and damages cells, which eventually impacts insulin sensitivity. Antioxidants have been shown to minimize this type of damage.

"These results suggest that if we prevent obesity, inflammation and oxidative stress in pregnant animals, we can prevent obesity in the offspring," said Rebecca Simmons, who led the investigation.

While she acknowledged that these effects still need to be tested in humans, she said that there are most likely many health benefits from consuming antioxidants, regardless of their ability to prevent type 2 diabetes.
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