Animal studies suggest that high-fat diet during pregnancy has the potential to alter a baby’s developing brain and increase its chances of obesity later in life.
The team at Yale School of Medicine showed diet could change the structure of mice brains.
They argue this could explain why the children of obese parents are more likely to become grossly overweight.
Experts said the study had merit, but brain changes in humans were unproven.
Obesity can run in families and shared eating habits are a major factor.
However, there is evidence that diet during pregnancy can also influence a child’s future waistline, such as through changes to DNA.
The latest foray into the field, published in the journal Cell, shows the structure of the brain itself may be changed.
The experiments on mice showed that mothers on a high-fat diet had pups with an altered hypothalamus, a part of the brain important for regulating metabolism.
These mouse pups were more likely to become overweight and develop type 2 diabetes than the pups of mothers given a normal diet.
Prof. Tamas Horvath, from Yale, says a healthy diet during pregnancy may help to break the cycle of obese parents having obese children.