Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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A mother’s diet can have a lasting impact on offspring


Image by Andrey Kitaev [CC BY 3.0 (

A new study published in Physiological Reports provides evidence that a mother’s diet during pregnancy could have lasting impacts on her offspring’s bone development and later risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is characterized by a loss of trabecular (spongy) bone leading to increased risk for developing bone fractures. 

File:Bone normal and degraded micro structure.jpg

Normal spongy trabeulcar bone on the left. Loss of trabecular bone with osteoporosis on the right. Image from Gtirouflet [CC BY-SA 3.0 (

The researchers discovered this relationship while studying female microswine that were consuming a diet containing only 1% protein late in their pregnancy and for two weeks after giving birth. MicroCT scans of the offspring’s femur and vertebra at 3-5 months of age showed these bones had less minerals and had smaller, but more trabecula compared to offspring born from mothers who ate a diet with normal protein content (14%). These negative effects on bone were more pronounced in female offspring who are already at greater risk of developing osteoporosis with aging.

Lanham SA, DuPriest E, Kupfer P, Cooper C, Bagby SP, Oreffo ROC. Altered vertebral and femoral bone structure in juvenile offspring of microswine subject to maternal low protein nutritional challenge. Physiological Reports. 7(11): e14081, 2019.

Categories: Diet and Exercise, Reproduction and Development

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