According to new research mothers who eat a high fat diet while pregnant increase their daughters risk of obesity and breast cancer.
The researchers from Auckland University in New Zealand, suggest that daughters experience puberty earlier if their mothers have a high fat diet while pregnant.
Experts suspect that the early onset of puberty may be linked to a range of problems from obesity, to depression in teenage years along with a higher risk of breast cancer as they have more menstrual cycles.
Although the research was carried out on rats, the research team believe the findings have relevance for women.
Dr. Deborah Sloboda, the lead author of the study, from the Liggins Institute at Auckland University, says the onset of puberty was much earlier in all the rats whose mothers had a high-fat diet, compared with the offspring of rats that ate a regular diet.
Then later in life those rats also had a higher amount of body fat than the controls did, even if they ate a regular diet while young.
The study showed that among the adult rats that had a maternal high-fat diet, there were alterations in the sex hormones, including increased levels of the ovarian hormone progesterone in females.
Dr. Sloboda says research suggests that a combination of prenatal and postnatal influences in girls can affect the onset of menstruation and a maternal high-fat diet possibly influences reproductive maturation and reproductive capacity in adult offspring.
The research was presented at The Endocrine Society's 90th Annual Meeting in San Francisco and was supported by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, National Research Centre for Growth and Development, and the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust.