New Study: How a High-Fat Pregnancy Diet Affects Your Baby

What you eat matters more than you think.

Pregnant Eating Ice Cream Dasha Petrenko/Shutterstock

The amount of fat you consume while pregnant could be influencing the microbes in your baby's gut, according to a new study published in Genome Medicine

So what does that mean, you ask? The mix of microbes in a person's gut are known as the microbiome, and can affect the formation of the immune system as well as the ability to extract energy from food. So yeah, your diet can affect your baby's health in some really important ways.

Researchers looked at dietary records of more than 150 women, examining the amount of fat each subject consumed. Fat consumption ranged from 14 percent to 55 percent, with an average of 33 percent. (Many experts agree that fat should make up 20 to 35 percent of your diet—as always, it's best to indulge in "good fats," like avocados and walnuts.)

Here's how these diets influenced gut microbiomes in babies: The babies whose mothers ate high-fat diets had fewer Bacteroids in their guts, both at birth and shortly after. According to the researchers, this can negatively affect the development of the immune system and the ability to take energy from food. 

"We were surprised when we observed the association between fewer Bacteroides and a high-fat maternal diet during pregnancy," senior study author Kjersti Aagaard, M.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, said, according to HealthDay.

The study doesn't necessarily prove cause and effect—but we would still urge you to keep your fat consumption within the recommended range. It's definitely worth having a conversation with a doctor or dietician if you're looking to make a change.

"Diet is very amenable to change, and women are highly motivated to make healthy changes during pregnancy," Dr. Aagaard said. "Traditionally, dietary interventions during pregnancy have focused on micronutrients, such as iron and folic acid. We speculate that there may be a sound argument to also discuss and estimate fat intake."

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