FILED IN: Health - Pregnancy

Mother's obesity or diabetes can harm embryo development

Obesity and diabetes in a mother can endanger an embryo. Via Google Images

Research published on Wednesday shows when eggs get exposed to high levels of saturated fatty acids (like those in often found in the ovaries of women suffering from obesity or diabetes), the embryos can be altered and not develop normally.

Scientists from Belgium, Britain and Spain  tested embryos from cattle eggs eight days after fertilization by exposing them to high levels of fatty acids, noting that those exposed featured a lower number of cells, altered gene expression and altered metabolic activity — all factors that adversely affect their ability to develop normally.

Roger Sturmey from Britain’s University of Hull (who worked on the study) said “Where eggs were exposed to high levels of fatty acids, the resulting embryos showed increased amino acid metabolism and altered consumption of oxygen, glucose and lactate — all of which indicates impaired metabolic regulation and reduced viability.”

Although the study was done on cow eggs, the researchers claim the findings could help to explain why women suffering from disorders like obesity and type 2 diabetes can struggle to conceive. Jo Leroy from the University of Antwerp, who led the study, said “In cows we can induce very similar metabolic disorders leading to reduced fertility…and compromised egg quality…This is one of the reasons that bovine eggs are a very interesting model for human reproductive research.”

Obese or diabetic women tend to have higher levels of fatty acids in the ovaries which can be toxic for the growing eggs before ovulation (according to research), the researchers explained in their study in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS One. Leroy said “We know from our previous research that high levels of fatty acids can affect the development of eggs in the ovary, but this is the first time we’ve been able to follow through to show a negative impact on the surviving embryo.”

The findings further support the reasoning behind health guidelines which recommend that women trying to become pregnant should strive to be a healthy weight.