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Children born to mothers who were undernourished during pregnancy are more likely to suffer early ageing of the heart, a research has showed.
The animal study found that moderately reducing a mother's food intake can make it more likely that the baby's organs will show increased disease susceptibility and early ageing.
These changes in the heart could contribute to decreased quality of life, decreased exercise capability, and increased vulnerability to other diseases such as diabetes and hypertension -- major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the study said.
Understanding the effect of maternal nutritional stress on ageing of the offspring will allow for interventions early in life, to prevent later-life heart problems, said a team of researchers led by Geoffrey Clarke from the University of Texas at San Antonio, US.
For the study, the team used MRI scanning to analyse the hearts of male and female baboons whose mothers ate 30 per cent less than the normally fed baboons.
They found that the offspring of baboons, which ate less, showed signs of reduced heart function that comes with age.
By five years of life, equivalent to 20 human years, the structure and function of the heart were already impaired.
"Women's health during pregnancy is of fundamental importance to the lifetime health of their babies. Society must pay attention to improving women's nutrition before and during pregnancy to prevent these adverse outcomes in babies," said Peter Nathanielsz, Director at the University of Wyoming in the US.
The study was published in The Journal of Physiology.
Inputs by IANS