A new study found that “mothers who eat a high fat diet before and during pregnancy may be putting their offspring at risk of birth defects,” reported Reuters. British researchers showed that a poor maternal diet may interact with defective genes to cause severe problems like congenital heart disease and cleft palates—in mice, at least.

While scientists have known that, separately, a poor diet and defective genes can have adverse effects on prenatal development, this study illustrates that together, the effects can be much worse: Mice with both criteria had offspring with twice as many heart problems and more than seven times as many cleft palates than those fed a balanced diet.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect, and this study suggests that a balanced diet before and during pregnancy could prevent it.

Image source: Flickr member meemal under Creative Commons

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