Researchers at Cambridge University in England concluded in a mouse study that a mother?s diet while pregnant affects the life span of her offspring, as published in a January issue of Nature. Although the results cannot be directly applied to humans, they do support the theory that low-birth-weight babies have a higher mortality rate and may be more prone to cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. In the study, pregnant mice received either a protein-rich diet or a low-protein diet. After the babies were born, the undernourished babies were nursed by the well-nourished mothers and vice versa. There was also a control group of mice fed a standard diet that nursed normally after the babies were born. Mice that were well nourished in the womb lived 2 months longer than those in the control group, and the undernourished mice died 6 months earlier than the control group.
The researchers surmised that those mice that were undernourished in the womb had a permanently increased appetite and that the kidneys were damaged by the lack of proper nutrition in the womb. If applied to humans, these findings could mean the difference between living to age 50, compared with living to age 75, according to the researchers.
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