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What affect do diabetes and obesity have on a pregnancy, and on a fetus? A study team with researchers from the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain set out to gain an answer to this question and had surprising results. Saturated fatty acids, which are frequently present in the ovaries of diabetics and obese women, negatively influence the development of embryos, they said. The study available from the Public Library of Science journal PLoS One was conducted using cow eggs.

Lead author of the study Jo Leroy from the University of Antwerp said: "In cows we can induce very similar metabolic disorders leading to reduced fertility...and compromised egg quality. This is one of the reasons that bovine eggs are a very interesting model for human reproductive research." Embryos that came from cow's eggs that were exposed to high rates of saturated fatty acids were more likely to develop abnormally.

These eggs had cells that were less viable and altered genes, said the study. Pregnancies resulting from such eggs were rarer. This can explain why women with diabetes or that are clinically obese often struggle to conceive a baby. "We know from our previous research that high levels of fatty acids can affect the development of eggs in the ovary, but this is the first time we've been able to follow through to show a negative impact on the surviving embryo," Jo Leroy pointed out.

Embryos resulting from these pregnancies had "altered consumption of oxygen, glucose and lactate", another study team member added. As always, more research will be needed into this topic to study the exact affects of these saturated fatty acids on pregnant women, and not cows. But for now, this study seems to point diabetics and obese women in the direction of attempting to get in shape and lose weight before trying to get pregnant.

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