It has been estimated that up to 32 million Americans have adopted the low-carb style of eating, in part because of its quick and dramatic results. Converts often maintain components of low-carb eating long after they’ve officially finished dieting.
Not surprisingly, a growing number of pregnant women now explore ways to continue low-carb routines through gestation, in fact there are several chat rooms devoted to this topic. Though low-carbing during pregnancy has not been extensively researched, a new study points to some positive benefits for the adult offspring of low-carb dieters.
A team of U.K. scientists at the University of Southampton School of Medicine have found that female pups born to mice who were fed a diet high in unsaturated fat and protein, and low in carbohydrates (low-carb/high-fat) during pregnancy and lactation were likely to have lower liver triglyceride levels in adulthood than pups born to mice on the standard chow diet (high-carb/low-fat). The female low-carb/high-fat offspring also had higher amounts of proteins that aid fatty acid oxidation (fat burning) than did the standard diet pups. A similar trend was noted in the male low-carb/high-fat offspring, but the results were not as dramatic.
In humans, maintenance of low triglyceride levels and a good lipid (fat) metabolism is important as these factors can reduce the risk of developing coronary artery disease, a condition that affects millions and kills thousands of Americans each year.
Mother mice were assigned either low-carb/high-fat or standard high-carb/low-fat diets approximately six weeks before impregnation. They remained on these diets through pregnancy and nursing.
The low-carb/high-fat mother mice ate approximately 21 percent less than the high-carb/low-fat mother mice did. The low-carb/high-fat mother mice consumed 57.5 percent fewer carbs, 153 percent more fat and 23 percent more protein than the mice on the standard diet.
The mothers on the low-carb/high-fat diet did not display differences in body weight in comparison to the standard diet mice.
All pups were weaned from breast milk onto the same standard high-carb diet into adulthood.
Importantly, the adult offspring of low-carb/high-fat mothers had reduced liver triglyceride concentration (less than half that of the pups born to mothers on the standard diet), despite being fed the same standard high-carb/low-fat diet post weaning. They also expressed significantly greater levels of the hepatic proteins CD36, CPT-1 and PPARá, which help with fatty acid oxidation.
The results of the study “A high unsaturated fat, high protein and low carbohydrate diet during pregnancy and lactation modulates hepatic lipid metabolism in female adult offspring” will appear as one of 20 research studies on fetal programming (how a mother’s actions affect her offspring) presented in the January 2005 edition of the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology.