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Breakthrough study reveals the secret behind our love for salt

[Apr 30, 2023: JD Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]


A high-fat diet has been linked to various health problems, including obesity, diabetes, chronic liver disease, and cancer. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


Eating a healthy diet is crucial for maintaining good health, especially during pregnancy. A high-fat diet has been linked to various health problems, including obesity, diabetes, chronic liver disease, and cancer.


Studies have shown that consuming high amounts of fat during pregnancy affects the taste preference and metabolism of the offspring. This is a significant concern since children and parents usually eat the same food in most households. Therefore, mothers eating a high-fat diet during pregnancy may feed their children fatty foods, leading to potential health risks.


 
 

Researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) have explored the consequences of maternal and early-life exposure to high amounts of fat on the offspring, using a rat model in a study published in Scientific Reports.


The study investigated the impact of a two-generational exposure to a high-fat diet on taste preference in rats. Pregnant and lactating females were fed a high-fat diet, while a control group received a standard diet. After weaning, the offspring from each group received the same diet, with babies from mothers fed a high-fat diet during pregnancy and those fed a standard diet receiving a high-fat and standard diet, respectively.


 

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The results showed that young rats from the high-fat diet groups gained more weight and consumed more energy than their counterparts from the standard diet groups. Takashi Ono, the senior author of the study, explained that taste impacts food intake. If something tastes good, the brain reward circuits are activated, and you will likely eat more of it.


Therefore, the researchers tested the animal preference for the five basic tastes: bitter, sour, salty, sweet, and umami, using a two-bottle challenge, in which two bottles – one containing water and the other containing water with taste – were added to the rat cage.


 
 

The study revealed that offspring exposed to a high-fat diet during gestation and early life preferred salty water. In contrast, they showed no specific preference for the other tastes when compared with the standard-diet group.


The researchers investigated the levels of proteins involved in perceiving the salty taste and found that the protein and gene expression of AT1 increased in the taste buds of female offspring exposed to a high-fat diet. This happened as early as three weeks after birth. Saranya Serirukchutarungsee, the lead author of the study, explained that AT1 is known to be associated with a preference for salty taste, and evidence suggests that it affects salty taste preference by increasing sodium intake in taste bud cells.


The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) theory refers to the concept that maternal and environmental variables at a very early life stage can influence a child's growth, development and health in later life. (CREDIT: Department of Orthodontic Science, TMDU)


The findings provide a crucial first step in understanding the programming of offspring's eating behavior and taste preferences. This better understanding is vital when considering the strong links between poor diet and poor health. The study can lead to further research aimed at reducing the risk of developing obesity and diet-linked diseases, such as cardiovascular disease in offspring and subsequent generations.


 
 

Maternal diet and its impact on offspring is a growing field of research. Recent studies have shown that maternal diet influences the offspring's health, not only during pregnancy but also in adulthood. A high-fat diet during pregnancy can lead to a higher risk of obesity, metabolic diseases, and cardiovascular disease in offspring. In contrast, a healthy diet during pregnancy can reduce the risk of these diseases.


Experimental design. Eleven-week-old pregnant female Wistar rats (n = 10) were divided into the standard diet (SD) and high-fat diet (HFD) groups. The SD group (n = 5) was fed a standard diet and the HFD group (n = 5) was fed a high-fat diet from 7 days of pregnancy (P7) until the end of the lactation period (L21). (CREDIT: Scientific Reports)


The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a balanced and nutritious diet for pregnant women, which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. They advise avoiding processed foods, sugary drinks, and high-fat foods. A balanced diet during pregnancy not only benefits the mother but also the developing fetus. A poor maternal diet during pregnancy can lead to poor fetal growth, which can have long-lasting effects on the offspring's health and development.


 
 

The TMDU study highlights the importance of maternal diet not only during pregnancy but also during lactation and early life, as this period appears to have a crucial impact on the offspring's food preferences and metabolism. The study's findings suggest that a high-fat diet during this critical period can program the offspring to have a preference for salty foods, which could lead to excessive sodium intake and potential health risks later in life.


The study's senior author, Takashi Ono, emphasizes the need for further research on this topic: "Our study provides valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying the programming of offspring's eating behavior and taste preferences. However, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term health effects of a high-fat diet during pregnancy and early life on the offspring and subsequent generations."


Dr. Aisha Abdullah, a nutritionist at the Dubai Health Authority, stresses the importance of a balanced diet during pregnancy: "Pregnancy is a crucial period for both the mother and the developing fetus, and nutrition plays a vital role in ensuring the best possible outcomes. A balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats is essential for the mother's health and the baby's growth and development. It is also important to avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and high-fat foods, as these can have negative effects on both the mother and the baby."


Dr. Abdullah also advises pregnant women to consult with their healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to ensure that they are meeting their nutritional needs during pregnancy. "Every pregnancy is unique, and nutritional requirements may vary depending on factors such as age, weight, and medical history. It is important to seek professional guidance to ensure that you are getting the right nutrients in the right amounts."


 
 

The TMDU study highlights the importance of maternal diet during pregnancy, lactation, and early life on the offspring's food preferences and metabolism. A balanced and nutritious diet during this critical period is essential for ensuring the best possible outcomes for both the mother and the developing fetus.


Pregnant women should aim to consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats while avoiding processed foods, sugary drinks, and high-fat foods. Seeking professional guidance from a healthcare provider or registered dietitian can help ensure that nutritional needs are met during pregnancy.






For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

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