Infants born to obese mothers can develop liver disease and obesity, a recent study suggests. Childhood obesity is a world-wide epidemic with recent predictions saying that 57 percent of today’s children will be obese by age 35. That parallels the rate of maternal obesity which is nearly 40 percent. Obesity increases the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which impacts at least 30 percent of obese children. NAFLD can lead to liver failure, requiring a transplant.
As part of the study, published in the journal of Nature Communications, researchers looked at two-week-old infants born to normal weight mothers and obese mothers. They took stool samples from infants from both groups and colonized them inside germ-free mice.
They discovered that the gut microbes from babies born to obese mothers caused metabolic and inflammatory changes to the liver and bone marrow cells of the mice. Then, when fed a Western-style high fat diet, these mice were predisposed to more rapid weight gain and development of fattier livers.
“This is the first experimental evidence in support of the hypothesis that changes in the gut microbiome in infants born to obese mothers directly initiate these disease pathways,” Taylor Soderborg, lead author the study said.
“If we could modify the first two weeks of the infant microbiome, we could reduce the risk of this disease,” said Jed Friedman, the study’s senior author.