Protective mechanisms of pulse crop consumption in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in mothers and offspring across life stages

Principal InvestigatorTodd C. Rideout,  PhD

Funding Agency: USDA

Abstract: About half of pregnant women in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This poses a significant negative influence on the postpartum health of mothers and increases childhood risk for obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. It is well-understood that maternal nutrition during and after pregnancy is critical in promoting maternal postpartum health and for ensuring optimal early childhood development. Unfortunately, nutrition amongst women of child-bearing age does not meet current dietary recommendations in the U.S. Further, poor nutrition in childhood and adolescence is also a major public health challenge.

Dietary pulses (e.g., beans, chickpeas, and lentils) have an outstanding nutritional profile to support optimal pregnancy health, yet only limited research has examined pulse consumption during pregnancy and lactation. Further, the protective influence of pulse intake during early childhood in promoting optimal health throughout life has not been adequately studied. Without this insight, pulses will continue to be under consumed in the U.S. and maternal and child nutrition and health may suffer.

The long-term goal of our research program is to characterize the influence of pulse crop consumption as a means to improve health throughout the life-course. We believe that pulse crop consumption in critical life stages, including pregnancy, lactation, and childhood, can ensure the long-term post-pregnancy health of mothers and improve child health. Using an obese rat model that mimics human health, we will evaluate pulse crop consumption to protect against obesity and fatty liver disease. We will first examine how maternal dietary intake of whole chickpeas, black beans, and lentil powders throughout pregnancy influences the long-term health of mothers after pregnancy and offspring in childhood and adulthood stages. We will then consider if consumption of these same pulse crops by mothers and children following birth can offer protection for obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease risk.

This proposal has broad relevance for those with commercial and regulatory interests in U.S. pulse crops, food processors and distributors, health authorities, the research community, and the general public. By exploring the protective role of pulse crops in the prevention of obesity and fatty liver disease this proposal is directly relevant to the program priorities that emphasize the role of pulse crops at various life stages in influencing the biological mechanisms and trajectory of metabolic disease.