Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Advanced Search

Search for

Print Page Follow BioNews on Twitter BioNews RSS feed

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook

King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

Mother's fat can harm embryos - at least in cows

22 August 2011

By Dr Lux Fatimathas

Appeared in BioNews 621

European researchers have shown a correlation between impaired embryo development and the fat levels of mother cows. Exposing eggs to high levels of saturated fatty acids affected the health of embryos produced by fertilising those eggs. These findings may shed light on the fertility problems faced by women with type 2 diabetes and obesity whose ovaries are known to contain increased levels of saturated fatty acids.

'We know from our previous research that high levels of fatty acids can affect the development of eggs in the ovary, but this is the first time we've been able to follow through to show a negative impact on the surviving embryo', said Professor Jo Leroy of the University of Antwerp, Belgium, who led the study.

Researchers analysed eight-day old embryos taken from cattle exposed to high levels of saturated fatty acids. These embryos had fewer cells, increased expression of genes associated with stress, and increased metabolic activity – all of which pointed towards reduced viability. This may explain why women with obesity and type 2 diabetes have difficulty conceiving, as in both conditions increased metabolism of stored fat is common, leading to increased fatty acid levels in the ovaries.

'In cows we can induce very similar metabolic disorders leading to reduced fertility in these animals and compromised egg quality in particular. This is one of the reasons that bovine eggs are a very interesting model for human reproductive research', said Professor Leroy.

Future research aims to investigate these findings in humans and determine if detrimental effects of high maternal fat levels can be detected after birth. Dr Roger Sturmey of the University of Hull, who was also involved in the study, said: 'Our findings add further weight to the public health recommendations which emphasise the importance of women being a healthy weight before starting a pregnancy'.

This study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.


PLoS One | 17 August 2011
International Federation for Gynecology and Obstetrics | 19 August 2011
Guardian (Press Association) | 16 August 2011
Reuters | 18 August 2011
Why obese women fail to conceive
Times of India | 18 August 2011


26 March 2012 - by Dr Daniel Grimes 
A gene variant passed down from the mother has been linked to heavier newborns, according to scientists... [Read More]
19 March 2012 - by Victoria Kay 
A child's body size may be influenced by genetic modifications that occur in the womb, a new study claims. Scientists found a weak link between specific DNA modifications – called epigenetic marks – present at birth and the child's height at age nine. Several news sources, however, incorrectly reported a link with childhood obesity.

04 July 2011 - by Marianne Neary 
Scientists have linked a so-called ‘lean gene’ to an increased likelihood of developing heart disease and type II diabetes.... [Read More]
01 November 2010 - by Matthew Smart 
Obesity in male rats increases the risk of their daughters developing diabetes in later life, a study by scientists at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, has found. The researchers believe epigenetic inheritance - changes in chemical markers on genes that affect their function - may be responsible... [Read More]
28 June 2010 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
Women using assisted reproductive technology (ART) to conceive have a higher rate of miscarriage if they are overweight, say a group of UK scientists.... [Read More]
21 October 2009 - by Sarah Guy 
Women who are overweight or obese have lower chances of successful IVF treatment, according to researchers reporting at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) conference in Atlanta, US, this week. The researchers, from Michigan State University in the US, found that women who were defined as clinically obese were up to 35 per cent less likely to conceive and have a live baby, and twice as likely to have a stillbirth, than their lighter cou... [Read More]
04 January 2009 - by Sarah Guy 
The results of a study in Scotland have indicated that obese and overweight women have the same chance of successful IVF treatment as normal weight women. The research was undertaken in Aberdeen between 1997 and 2006, on 1,700 women undergoing their first cycle of IVF, and included... [Read More]

Be the first to have your say.

You need to Login or Register to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions



- click here to enquire about using this story.

Printer Friendly Page

Published by the Progress Educational Trust
FREE public event in central London, 6.30pm on Thursday 8 May 2014 - find out more HERE

Please donate HERE, so that the Progress Educational Trust can continue throughout 2014 (and beyond) while keeping BioNews FREE for you to read

The Progress Educational Trust was shortlisted for the Charity Times Awards 2011

Advertise your products and services HERE - click for further details

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE, and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation