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A prestigious magazine publishes USP research on fructose consumption during pregnancy

The work of the research group “Nutrigenomics and fetal programing” lead by researcher Carlos Bocos at the Pharmacy Faculty of CEU San Pablo has appeared in an article of the magazine Journal of Functional Foods.

Dr. Bocos directs a team formed by professors Maribel Panadero, Paola Otero and Elena Fauste (FPU intern of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities). Moreover, it counts with the collaboration of Dr Álvarez-Millán from the clinical laboratory CQS in Madrid and the group of Dr Barbas at CEMBIO.

Avoiding sugary drinks and processed food to improve the health of children and adults

This article echoes the conclusions of the team, highlighting the importance of the intake of sugar by the mother during pregnancy. They have revealed in test animals that this intake by the mother clearly conditions on the long-term the response of her offspring to food. Therefore, metabolism of animals behaved differently when taking fructose depending on whether they were the offspring of mothers who had taken water high in sugar or not.

Fructose is present in many processed foods and sugary drinks. Consuming these products in excess is related with obesity and diabetes. Moreover, the food taken by mothers impacts on the health of their children giving place to pathologies they may suffer as adults. This is due to the process known as fetal programing. This way according to Dr. Bocos there is a direct relationship between fructose intake by the mother and the health of her offspring which tends to develop diseases if this intake has been excessive. However consumption of sugary drinks is not discouraged during pregnancy although USP team recommends everyone to reduce the intake of fructose. The key to achieve this is to avoid excessive consumption of sugary drinks and consume natural food avoiding processed products.

The role of FGF21 in the fight against obesity and diabetes

Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a hormone that regulates metabolic routes. It is assumed that the increase of FGF21 serves as protection against the accumulation of fats and the emergence of oxidative damage of molecules as proteins or fats. Nevertheless, we have observed high levels of FGF21 in people and rodents with obesity or diabetes. In these cases, the function of FGF21 is not correct and therefore the body produces more hormones to offset this alteration.

Likewise it has been proven that fructose consumption increases FGF21 blood levels. According to Dr. Bocos, “in our study we have also observed high FGF21 blood levels in rats fed with fructose. However, we find that FGF21 protected against fat-induced hepatic accumulation of fats only in the offspring of mothers who took fructose during pregnancy, while FGF21 protected against fructose-induced oxidation of lipids in the adipose tissue in the offspring of mothers who had taken glucose”. This means that the response of the offspring to fructose consumption depends on the type of carbohydrate taken during pregnancy.

The study of CEU San Pablo mentions the need to act cautiously when using FGF21 as therapeutic agent against obesity and resistance to insulin. According to Dr. Bocos there is a need for “additional studies to better define the role and mechanism of action of FGF21 in different physiological and pathological situations”. 

This work has been possible thanks to a research project of the R&D&i National Plan RETOS 2017 (MICINN).