Scientists from the University of Colorado have found that poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy increases the risk of fatty liver at an early age in a child. The study is published in The Journal of Nutrition .
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in children is of growing concern because it is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hepatitis, obesity, and other metabolic disorders.
Animal model studies have shown that diets high in fat and sucrose are associated with NAFLD in offspring. These results have now been confirmed in human studies.
The scientists analyzed data from 1,131 mother-infant couples with complete information about maternal diet during pregnancy. A subset of children were assessed for liver fat in early childhood using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The analysis showed that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduced the accumulation of fat in the liver in a child in early childhood. Increased sugar intake, as well as insufficient amounts of legumes and green vegetables in the mother’s diet, increased the risk of accumulation of liver fat in the child.
These effects were observed even when tests were adjusted for the woman’s body mass index (BMI) and her activity during pregnancy.
However, the study refuted the findings of previous work, which showed that maternal triglyceride levels are associated with the accumulation of fat in the liver of the offspring.