FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:
Previous research in both animals and humans already indicates that the diets of mothers during pregnancy can affect the health of their offspring not just in infancy and childhood, but throughout life - and that these 'nutritional programming' effects apply to brain as well as body health.
Higher rates of anxiety and depression are reliably found in the children of mothers who consume modern, western-type diets, rich in ultra-processed foods.
The aim of this study was to investigate some of the mechanisms behind these effects of early diet on mental health and wellbeing - and particularly the effects of a modern, western-type diet rich in omega-6 fats (found in vegetable oils), and relatively lacking in omega-3.
Results showed that when mothers eat omega-6-rich diets in pregnancy, this permanently changes brain's structure and connectivity in the children, who then go on to show more anxious and depressive traits even as adults.
These effects were traced to the de-sensitisation of certain brain cells and signalling systems to substances known as endocannabinoids. These are natural versions of cannabinoids (the active substances found in marijuana) that are made within the body from both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
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