Dr. Antonio Frias, principal investigator and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the OHSU School of Medicine, says a typical American diet, high in fat, decreases blood flow from the mother to the placenta, the temporary organ that nourishes the fetus.
The study was conducted at the OHSU Oregon National Primate Research Center because the placental structure of the Japanese macaque is very similar to that in humans, allowing better establishment of cause and effect.
"This study demonstrates that maternal diet during pregnancy has a profound influence on both placental and fetal development," Frias says in a statement. "The high-calorie, high-fat diet common in our society has negative effects on placental function and may be a significant contributor to adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as stillbirth."
Prior to this study, exactly how a fatty diet contributes to stillbirth was unclear, the researchers say.
The findings are published in the journal Endocrinology.