Food and Behaviour Research

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Maternal obesity and neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders in offspring.

Edlow AG (2017) Prenat Diagn. 37(1) 95-110. doi: 10.1002/pd.4932. Epub 2016 Nov 7. 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on Pubmed here


There is a growing body of evidence from both human epidemiologic and animal studies that prenatal and lactational exposure to maternal obesity and high-fat diet are associated with neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders in offspring. These disorders include cognitive impairment, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy, anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.

This review synthesizes human and animal data linking maternal obesity and high-fat diet consumption to abnormal fetal brain development and neurodevelopmental and psychiatric morbidity in offspring.

In addition, it highlights key mechanisms by which maternal obesity and maternal diet might impact fetal and offspring neurodevelopment, including neuroinflammation; increased oxidative stress, dysregulated insulin, glucose, and leptin signaling; dysregulated serotonergic and dopaminergic signaling; and perturbations in synaptic plasticity.

Finally, the review summarizes available evidence regarding investigational therapeutic approaches to mitigate the harmful effects of maternal obesity on fetal and offspring neurodevelopment.


Substantial evidence now shows that maternal diets high in fat and sugar, and obesity before and during pregnancy, increase the risks not only for obesity and physical health problems in the resulting children, but also for childhood disorders of mood, behaviour and learning. See:

News articles:
Research studies in humans:

Animal studies: