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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK
Experts probe diet of 60s mothers
Suzanne Poutney was one of the "Motherwell babies"
Suzanne Poutney was one of the "Motherwell babies"
A group of people whose mothers adopted an Atkins-style diet during pregnancy more than 30 years ago are to be studied in a research project.

A team from Edinburgh and Southampton universities has traced almost 1,000 of the "Motherwell babies" who were born in the town in the late 1960s.

Their mothers were put on a high-meat, low-carbohydrate diet during pregnancy.

Their children will undergo tests to try to learn about the effects of a woman's diet on her offspring's health.

Important part

Previous studies have suggested that the babies of women with less balanced diets grow up to have higher blood pressure and stress hormone levels, as well as altered blood sugar.

These factors can put people at increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Dr Rebecca Reynolds, of Edinburgh University, said the "Motherwell babies" would play an important part in the research.

The group of adults will be put through a mental health test to see how they respond.

The eating habits of their mothers were recorded by local obstetrician Dr Kerr Grieve.

We now know that growth from the very earliest days in the womb affects health in adulthood, particularly the risks of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis
Dr Rebecca Reynolds
Edinburgh University

He believed that unhealthy eating was the cause of many of the problems suffered by mothers and babies.

He designed a diet for pregnant women that would provide "body building" foods for the healthy growth of babies.

Dr Reynolds said: "We now know that growth from the very earliest days in the womb affects health in adulthood, particularly the risks of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

"If the mother eats an unbalanced diet this can trigger her body to produce increased amounts of stress hormones, which can then have long-term effects on the stress responses of her unborn baby.

"These stress responses could be an important part of the link between development in the womb and health in later life."

'Lifelong benefits'

Dr Keith Godfrey, of Southampton University, said many young women now ate unbalanced diets, such as the Atkins diet.

"This research in Motherwell will help us to identify if such diets have long-term effects on the health of the baby," he said.

"This is an important part of research to determine how best to improve a mother's nutrition during pregnancy. This could have lifelong benefits for the health of the baby."

The study is being funded by the Chief Scientist Office and the Medical Research Council.


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