Maternal Mitochondrial DNA May Become Defective In Unfertilized Eggs Due To Poor Diet Choices, Mouse Study Suggests


This is another example of a nutrition study that creates a misleading conclusion as so many studies have done before it.  The authors fed rats a high fat and a high sugar diet showing egg mitochondrial dysfunction and concluded that high fat and high sugar is bad for prospective or pregnant mothers via changes in their eggs.  If you added hot water and a great deal of salt to your fish aquarium and the fish died, was it the salt or the heat or both??  This is why we learn in science to change one variable at a time in studies so that we can have some idea of causation.  Also, this is a preliminary animal study in and not a “definitive study.”  These types of studies should be reported on very differently, if at all.  Their results are often later challenged when studied more carefully but to the casual reader, now high fat has been linked to problems.  The word maternal suggests human and there is no qualification that mouse models may have no correlation to humans.  In most cases, we don’t know.  Again, these studies are just preliminary to look for potential associations that can be further studied in more careful ways.

Historically, nutrition studies change the components of the macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrate) by changing percentages in the diet to look for differences in outcome.  For example, the current american diet is 60-80% carbohydrate so most studies look at 50% carbohydrate as a ‘low carb’ diet.  Any conclusions drawn in such a study are applied to low carb as if it were gospel.  Clinically however, we know that until you get to 5-10% carbohydrate, there is not much beneficial effect so all studies above that level will show very little improvement if any.  Yet the headlines read, “low carb diet does not improve…….xxx.”

This study does however, give us evidence for an important concept that we believe to be true:  egg development is affected by factors that change the metabolic environment for the egg as it matures in the first two weeks of the cycle.  The big factors that we work with are diet and stress.  We do believe that there are major detrimental changes to the egg.  This study shows mitochondrial changes merely due to this simple dietary change.  I would bet that the effect related to the sugar and not the fat but we don’t know what fats they refer to and these studies never reference what a mouse in the wild really eats.  Based on the study design, we really are unable to answer the question.  More such evidence is emerging as time goes on.  The take away here is that diet is very important for egg development and in our human experience, the correct diet is low carb high fat.  It will take time but we are seeing more studies that point in this direction.  Even primitive societies understood that diet was critical to reproduction and fed their prospective parents a special diet composed of higher quantities of organ meats etc that were packed with fat, vitamins and trace elements
(ref: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Weston Price).

Michael D. Fox, MD
Jacksonville Center
Reproductive Medicine 

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