Protein intake during pregnancy affects offspring’s facial features

The protein content of the diet during pregnancy can affect the face of the offspring. This is shown in animal studies, and the underlying mechanism was also found in human genetic studies. The research is described in a study led by the University of Gothenburg.

A child is expected to share facial features with their parents. However, the face is also influenced by factors beyond genetics, so-called environmental factors. Among those, lifestyle during pregnancy is an essential factor. For example, extensive alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to facial abnormalities in the child.

The current study, published in Nature Communications, revealed a novel link between the child’s face and pregnancy lifestyle, specifically protein intake during pregnancy.

A research team led by Andrei Chagin, Professor of Molecular Medicine, delved into the mechanisms that control the formation of the facial bone structure during the embryonic phase. The studies revealed that a particular signaling pathway in the cells seemed to play a crucial role in shaping the face.

Noticeable differences in the face

The signaling pathway, known as mTOR, controls several cell functions, including cell division and cell survival, and is known to be the target of an immunosuppressive medicinal product, rapamycin, which is administered during organ transplantation to avoid rejection.

The mTOR signaling pathway acts as an intracellular nutritional sensor specifically tailored to amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The researchers found that the mTOR pathway modulates the formation of facial skeletal structures in humans, mice, and zebrafish. This led researchers to investigate whether the protein content of the pregnancy diet affects mTOR and plays a role in the formation of the facial bone structure.

Pregnant mice were given diets with high and low protein levels. As expected, the protein levels in the female’s diet were consistent with the activity level of mTOR in the developing face. In newborn offspring, the differences in the face were noticeable, albeit subtle.

It is difficult to describe the exact effects, which can be caused by protein content in the diet during human pregnancy. But our data suggest that the mechanism is evolutionarily conserved and, from this perspective, likely serves to increase variability in the feeding apparatus, thus, allowing animals to adapt to various feeding sources in the wild. In mice, we see, for example, an enlarged nasal cavity in the offspring of mice fed a protein-enriched diet and a slightly elongated jaw in mice where the mother has eaten a low-protein diet.”

Andrei Chagin, Professor of Molecular Medicine

Good nutrition and clinical practices

This international study was led by researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in collaboration with colleagues at Karolinska Institutet, Belgium, Japan, China, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Austria.

The aim has been to contribute to the future development of more effective clinical methods for the prevention and treatment of different types of facial congenital malformations and to increase knowledge of what a good pregnancy diet should contain.

“The findings emphasize the importance of maintaining a well-balanced diet during pregnancy, with particular attention to protein intake. The insights open new avenues for understanding the intricate interplay between genetics, lifestyle, and the formation of our unique facial features,” concludes Andrei Chagin.

Source:Journal reference:Xie, M., et al. (2024). The level of protein in the maternal murine diet modulates the facial appearance of the offspring via mTORC1 signaling. Nature Communications.


Explore more

Stop Letting Others Control Your Life

Stop Letting Others Control Your Life

SUMMARY: In this episode, Brendon teaches… How to focus more on positive life outcomes like life satisfaction, fitness, happiness, and confidence is essential. Why better embracing significant...

You Asked: In a Woman with ADHD, Should You Continue Treatment...

Question: I have a 32-year-old patient with ADHD who stopped her stimulant medication (Concerta 54 mg) during pregnancy. She is now at 34 weeks of...

The Future of Period Pain Relief

Hey there, womanhood warriors! We get you, and we especially get you on those days of the month. Period cramps are a real problem...
Preventive Care: How It Can Save Your Business Money On Health Insurance

Preventive Care: How It Can Save Your Business Money On Health...

As a small business owner in California or Arizona, you already understand the importance of keeping your employees healthy and productive. But you also...

Biosensor technology company Allez Health secures $60M

California-based Allez Health, formerly Zense-Life, announced it secured $60 million in Series A+ financing.  The round was led by strategic investor Osang Healthcare, with participation...
Omega-3 index test

Omega-3 index test and benefits for overall health and well-being

The Omega-3 Index test...
Thousands of NÜTRL tumblers recalled after dozens report illness - National

Thousands of NÜTRL tumblers recalled after dozens report illness – National

A promotional NÜTRL branded tumbler that was recalled in Canada earlier this month caused multiple reports of adverse health effects, an updated notice said...
Dentistry procurement platforms and trends 2024

E-Procurement Platforms, AI, and More Trends from DentalForum 2024

This article was written by the Planet DDS staff and originally published on this year’s DentalForum, leaders from more than two dozen dental...