Newton Fund

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Childhood obesity: a Mexican solution to a global problem

Maternal obesity is a major risk factor for childhood obesity and reduced life expectancy. In Mexico, 32 percent of the adult population is obese and the prevalence of childhood obesity is the highest in the world. The current generation of Mexican children may, for the first time ever, have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Diet and nutrition during pregnancy can have an impact on the metabolic health of offspring, presenting an opportunity for intervention to stem this growing global problem. This Newton-funded project is developing a therapeutic early intervention that has the potential to improve the metabolic health of future generations; preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes and alleiviating the burden of health care costs.

Researchers in the UK and Mexico have discovered that drinking a novel probiotic extracted from a traditional aguamiel drink (‘Honey milk’ from Agave salmiana cactus) improves metabolism in obese pregnancy. The probiotic proved highly effective in preclinical trials. Administered daily for one month prior to and throughout pregnancy and lactation, the aguamiel probiotic was found to prevent many of the negative biochemical and metabolic outcomes observed in the offspring of obese rats.

The researchers hope to translate the preclinical studies performed initially in Mexico, to small scale clinical trials in the UK. Successful translation of preclinical studies to the general population could have significant impact on the health and life expectancy of the next generation. The aguamiel probiotic may yet prove to be a Mexican solution to a global problem.

"This project brings together two of the leading groups in this field and has the potential to develop new avenues of treatment that can help alleviate the obesity crisis." 

Professor Lucilla Poston, Head of School of Life Course Sciences and the Department of Women & Children’s Health, Kings College London


Interventions to improve maternal metabolic profile and prevent cardio-metabolic and behavioural deficits in future generations due to programming by maternal obesity

Project leads: Dr Paul Taylor, King’s College London and Professor Elena Zambrano, National Institute of Medical Science and Nutrition Salvador Zubiran

Delivery partners: Medical Research Council and the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT)