For many women today pregnancy means no limits when it comes to food cravings. But the concept of “eating for two” takes another turn, as a new study shows that eating fatty food during pregnancy puts the offspring at risk of breast cancer.
A study published in Nature Communications has linked fatty diets during pregnancy to breast cancer in offspring. It’s a risk mothers should consider when craving for a burger, muffins, potato chips, cakes and pies or meat-based dishes. The high content of fat and excess estrogens have been linked by experts to breast cancer in the next generations.
Georgetown University scientists have undertaken tests on mice that had high-fat diets. The results confirmed that the excess estrogen resulting from fatty food during pregnancy can boost the breast cancer risk. The hormones have been found to cause changes in the breast tissue that in later life could develop into cancer.
“We know that maternal diet can have long lasting effects of an offspring’s health” says Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, professor of oncology, for Medical News Today. “But this study demonstrates, for the first time, that excess estrogens and a high-fat diet can affect multiple generations of a rat’s offspring” the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center’s professor added.
Researcher Sonia de Assis says that “if the mother was fed a high fat diet before conception and throughout pregnancy, the risk of increased breast cancer was transmitted to granddaughters through either males or females exposed to the high fat diet in utero”.
So by eating fatty foods during pregnancy, a woman puts at risk not only her children, but also her granddaughters and great granddaughters. Post-doctoral researcher Sonia de Assis and lead author of the study, explained the research could have “important health implications”.
“Fatty foods are endemic in our society, and significant levels of substances that have hormonal activity similar to estrogens, called endocrine disrupting chemicals, have been found in food and drinking water” warned Sonia de Assis.
Hilakivi-Clarke added that the risk of offspring developing breast cancer also pertains to “daughters whose mothers took synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol to reduce pregnancy complications or who had a birth weight of more than 8.8 pounds”.
In a nutshell, the study shows that “altered DNA methylations by specific diet in normal development are heritable and transgenerational”.