Did you know a mother’s diet in pregnancy may have an impact on the brain health of her grandchildren?

Exciting research from Monash University reveals how a mother’s diet during early pregnancy can have a remarkable impact on the brain health of her children and even her grandchildren.

In a groundbreaking study published in Nature Cell Biology, scientists at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute investigated the profound effects of certain foods on brain function. To study this, they used a genetic model involving tiny roundworms called Caenorhabditis elegans, which share many genes with humans, providing valuable insights into human cells.

The researchers discovered that specific molecules present in apples and herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage play a crucial role in safeguarding the brain’s health. These molecules help prevent the breakdown of communication cables in the brain, called axons, which are essential for proper brain function.

Professor Roger Pocock, the senior author of the study, explained that malfunctioning axons could lead to brain dysfunction and neurodegeneration. To address this issue, they investigated whether natural products in our diet could stabilize these fragile axons and prevent their breakage as we age.

Their investigations led them to a molecule called ursolic acid, which is found in apples and herbs. When ursolic acid is present, it triggers the activation of a specific gene responsible for producing a type of fat known as sphingolipid. This particular fat proves vital in protecting axons, improving their transport, and ensuring overall brain health as we age.

The fascinating part is that this protective fat is not only beneficial for the mother consuming it but can also be inherited by her offspring. The sphingolipid needs to travel from the mother’s intestine, where food is digested, to her eggs in the uterus to safeguard the axons of future generations.

“This is the first time that a lipid/fat has been shown to be inherited,” Professor Roger Pocock said. “Further, feeding the mother the sphingolipid protects the axons of two subsequent generations. This means a mother’s diet can affect not just their offspring’s brain but potentially subsequent generations.  Our work supports a healthy diet during pregnancy for optimal brain development and health,” he said.

While the results from this study are incredibly promising, the researchers caution that further investigation is needed, especially in human subjects. Nevertheless, this groundbreaking work highlights the significant impact of a healthy diet during pregnancy on optimal brain development and long-term health for both mothers and their future generations.

So, if you’re a mum-to-be, already a mother, or simply intrigued by the wonders of genetics, consider incorporating more apples and herbs into your diet. You may be setting the stage for not only your child’s brain health but also that of your grandchildren. It’s a beautiful testament to the power of our choices and their lasting effects on the generations to come.