Hormones associated with body composition during pregnancy linked to infants' mental health

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Mental Health Innovation have identified biomarkers related to body fat composition during pregnancy that are associated with mental health outcomes in offspring. The study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, focused on two key hormones associated with fat mass—adiponectin and leptin.

These hormones, critical in fetal development, are linked to offspring behavioral outcomes, providing a potential explanation for the association between obesity during pregnancy and offspring mental health disorders. The findings suggest that lower levels of adiponectin in the parent’s circulation and higher concentrations of leptin in cord blood may serve as novel biomarkers of the offspring’s risk for mental health disorders.

Identifying these biomarkers could lead to early interventions for children at risk for various mental health disorders. The researchers gathered data from a cohort of over 300 pregnant individuals and their children, collecting blood samples during pregnancy and at birth, and assessing the offspring’s behavioral tests at 6 months old.

The team plans to conduct further research to better understand the nature of these associations and whether behavioral health outcomes persist throughout childhood. They also aim to investigate the role of social determinants of health in these associations and support improved care for birthing parents and their children.

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