Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia suggest a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet causes oxidative stress -- an excess of free radicals -- during pregnancy, predisposing the offspring to obesity and diabetes.
However, feeding the rats antioxidants before and during pregnancy prevented obesity and glucose intolerance in their children, the researchers say.
Senior author Dr. Rebecca A. Simmons, a neonatologist at the hospital, says if the results are repeated in humans, the research may have implications for reducing obesity rates in children.
"We already know that there are critical periods during human development that influence the later development of obesity," Simmons says in a statement. "This research suggests that if we can prevent inflammation and oxidative stress during pregnancy, we may lower the risk that a child will develop obesity."
Until further research is completed, whether pregnant or not, women should not conclude from this study that they should consume large doses of antioxidant vitamins, Simmons cautions.