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Maternal diet high in fat can change newborn heart 'tastebuds'

Researchers also linked a high-fat diet to a larger heart and other cardiac concerns.

By Stephen Feller
Maternal diet high in fat can change newborn heart 'tastebuds'
Mothers who maintain high-fat diets during pregnancy may be influencing the formation of taste receptors in the heart, which can affect cardiac function and nutrient detection in the heart. Photo by ChameleonsEye/Shutterstuck

NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia, July 28 (UPI) -- Mothers with high-fat diets during pregnancy can cause changes in heart taste receptors, according to a study with rats.

Tastebuds exist outside of the mouth, including in the heart, and although researchers are unsure exactly what their purpose is, it is thought they play a role in nutrient detection and regulation of appetite.

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Researchers in the study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, fed rats a high-fat diet that included pies, cakes, biscuits and dim sims for 6 weeks before mating, as well as throughout gestation and lactation. At 19 weeks, the researchers found fewer bitter taste receptors on the hearts of the rats born to obese mothers, as opposed to those that had been fed regular rat feed.

Researchers said the baby rats hearts also were larger, with fewer angiotensin II and beta-adrenoreceptors, both of which are important for regulating blood pressure and cardiac activity, which suggests that their cardiac systems were overactive.

"We know that a range of maternal factors including diet can influence fetal development, but this is the first study to examine changes in the expression of taste receptors in the heart," said Margaret Morris, head of the pharmacology department at the University of New South Wales, in a press release. "This may be an important finding linking taste preferences or nutrient availability and cardiovascular health."

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