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30 July 2015 08:40
Evidence suggests eating for two in early pregnancy is not necessary
Mums-to-be who eat for two may end up struggling to lose weight after having their baby, because of digestive changes during pregnancy, a new study suggests.
Scientists studying fruit flies found hormones trigger the growth of intestines after they have mated, stimulating fat storage and enabling more energy to be converted from the same amount of food.
The researchers from the Medical Research Council's (MRC) Clinical Sciences Centre in London say the same metabolic changes could also occur in pregnant women.
They say the fruit flies' juvenile hormone works in a similar way to humans' thyroid hormones, which control the energy demanded by the body.
Dr Irene Miguel-Aliaga, who led the study, says previous research has indicated that eating more during the early stages of pregnancy is not necessary.
She says the new study suggests that may be because a pregnant woman's digestive system is anticipating the increasing demand for energy that will be made on her body.
The study's co-author, Dr Jake Jacobson, says the research may provide a biological explanation for why some women struggle with their weight after their pregnancy.
He says many of the genes studied in fruit flies also exist in humans, adding that they control their metabolism with similar hormones, enabling them to store and use fat in a similar way.
Expectant mothers can ensure they are fully covered while on holiday by taking out pregnancy travel insurance.
This can offer them medical expenses cover for pregnancy and childbirth, from week zero to week 28.
Published in the eLife journal, the study suggests a mother's enlarged intestine may continue to extract more calories from food, if her hormone levels do not return to normal after she has given birth.
The study also suggests that the hormone-driven metabolic changes may play a role in fertility, with the team having found that fruit flies produce less eggs when the juvenile hormone is prevented from enlarging the intestines.
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