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Aurora magazine

The maternal intestinal microbiota influences fetal metabolism

Short chain fatty acids from the microbiota suppress insulin signals, reducing fat deposits. According to a study published in Science, the phenomenon could also affect fetal development. Indeed, some experiments show that acids can cross the placenta, passing from the maternal microbiota to the fetal environment. They could therefore regulate insulin levels and also affect the development of the baby's metabolism.

In recent years, the intestinal microbiota has been undergoing attacks both from the massive use of antibiotics and from the low-fiber diet. The lack of a healthy and functional microbiota exposes to various diseases, most of which are metabolic. The authors of the study then analyzed the effects in pregnancy, to verify whether they involved only the mother or even the fetus.

The researchers divided pregnant guinea pigs into two groups: half spent gestation in an environment free of a specific pathogen, half in a germ-free environment. The small ones in the second group were much more prone to develop metabolic problems. Later, they repeated the experiment; this time, the guinea pigs of the second group ate few fibers throughout the gestation. Again, the little ones experienced the same problem.

According to the researchers, the short chain fatty acids of the gut microbiota pass from the mother to the fetus. When the microbiota is deficient, the embryo receives less fatty acids. The deficit affects the development of the baby's metabolic system, thus making it more vulnerable to future obesity problems.