Nutritionally deprived newborns' brains are "programmed" to eat more because they have fewer pathways for signalling fullness in the brain region that controls appetite: the discovery is a new clue for the link between low birthweight and obesity later in life, concluded a study published this week in the journal Brain Research.

Researchers from Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) compared the brains of low birthweight newborn rats whose mothers had a 50% food-restricted diet during pregnancy to those of rats born to mothers who had free access to food during pregnancy.

What they found led them to conclude that a tendency to overreat in adulthood could be programmed at stem cell level before birth in people whose mothers had a poor or inadequate diet during pregnancy.

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