A diet high in fats and sugars is known for its unhealthy effects on the heart. Scientists now have found that a high-fat, high-sugar diet in mouse mothers before and during pregnancy causes problems in the hearts of their offspring, and that such problems are passed down at least three generations, even if the younger generations only eat a standard mouse chow diet.
The study, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is published March 22 in the journal AJP-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.
The study also suggests that diet-induced heart changes in offspring are not only transmitted to offspring by their mothers. Obese mothers’ male offspring that mated with healthy females fed a normal diet also passed on the same heart problems. The specific changes to the heart in these offspring were evident in changes to the heart muscle cells’ energy factories, called mitochondria.