A groundbreaking study conducted by Monash University suggests that a mother’s diet choice during early pregnancy may have far-reaching effects on the brain health of not only her child but also her grandchildren. The research, which utilized genetic models using roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans), identified specific foods that could potentially safeguard against brain function deterioration.
MOTHER’S DIET; GENETIC MODEL REVEALS SURPRISING INSIGHTS INTO BRAIN PROTECTION
Published in Nature Cell Biology, the study focused on investigating nerve cells in the brain responsible for communication through intricate networks of axons, resembling cables that span an astounding 850,000 kilometres. These axons rely on essential materials transported through microtubules to function and survive properly. When axons become fragile due to malfunction, brain dysfunction and neurodegeneration can occur.
URSOLIC ACID: THE KEY MOLECULE BEHIND BRAIN HEALTH
Led by Senior Author Professor Roger Pocock and his team from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, the researchers sought to determine if natural products commonly found in the diet could stabilize these vulnerable axons and prevent breakage. They honed in on a molecule present in apples and herbs, particularly basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage, known as ursolic acid, which exhibited the ability to reduce axon fragility.
The study’s intriguing findings revealed that ursolic acid activated a specific gene responsible for producing a particular type of fat called sphingolipid. This sphingolipid played a crucial role in preventing axon fragility as the animals aged, leading to improved axon transport and overall health.
FROM INTESTINE TO UTERUS: HOW SPHINGOLIPIDS SAFEGUARD FUTURE GENERATIONS
Furthermore, the research uncovered a remarkable aspect. The sphingolipid had to travel from the mother’s intestine, where food is digested, to the eggs in the uterus to protect axons in subsequent generations. Notably, this study marks the first time a lipid or fat has been demonstrated to be inherited.
While the results hold significant promise, Professor Pocock emphasizes the need for further investigation and verification in humans. However, the study’s implications are groundbreaking. It ays a mother’s dietary choice afefcts not only her offspring’s brain development but also brain health of future generations. Promoting healthy diet during pregnancy could ensure optimal brain development and overall health for generations to come.
For in-depth insights into the study, interested readers can access the full paper published in Nature Cell Biology, titled “An Intestinal Sphingolipid Confers Intergenerational Neuroprotection.”