Is obesity in infants "programmed" in the womb? Previously, researchers assumed that consumption of "bad" fats during pregnancy contribute to excessive infant adipose tissue growth and that "good" omega-3 fatty acids prevent expansive adipose tissue development. A study run by the Technische Universit-t M-nchen showed no evidence to support this "perinatal programming" theory.
Obesity has become a global epidemic with more and more younger children affected by the overweight trend. According to the Robert Koch Institute, 15 percent of children aged between 3 and 17 are overweight. With serious consequences - childhood obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and also increases the chances of developing coronary heart disease or cancer in adult life. Nutritional experts are therefore keen to find effective prevention methods. "Efforts to control weight gain and obesity should target the earliest possible stages of development," says Professor Hauner, Head of the Else Kr-ner-Fresenius Centre for Nutritional Medicine at TUM.
To achieve that, Prof. Hauner decided to research early adipose tissue growth. In their INFAT study, Hauner and his colleagues, explored how the composition of fatty acids in the mother's diet during pregnancy and lactation affected the offspring. The research focused in particular on the ratio between Omega 6 fatty acids - present in meats, cold cuts and sausages - and Omega 3 fatty acids - concentrated in oily saltwater fish in particular. The team hypothesized that decreasing this ratio in the mother's diet was a promising way of preventing infant obesity. Cell culture and mouse studies had shown that arachidonic acid - an Omega 6 fatty acid - resulted in increased adipogenesis and growth of fat mass in offspring. Experiments with Omega 3 fatty acids, however, revealed a curbing effect on adipose tissue growth among mice offspring.