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Low-Protein Diet Among Pregnant Women Predisposes Offspring To Adult Hypertension

July 25, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
U.S. researchers report that the offspring of pregnant women who eat a low-protein diet are more prone to high blood pressure in adulthood because of the failure of an enzyme that moderates the hormone testosterone. In a study in rats, the researchers found that high maternal testosterone levels – associated with a low-protein diet – are caused by the activity of an enzyme that normally deactivates testosterone. When that enzyme, known as Hsd17b2, isn’t working properly, more testosterone reaches the fetus, boosting susceptibility to adult hypertension. The enzyme ordinarily converts testosterone to the less potent androgen, androstenedione.
Haijun Gao et al., "estational Protein Restriction Reduces Expression of Hsd17b2 in Rat Placental Labyrinth", Biology of Reproduction, July 25, 2012, © The Society for the Study of Reproduction
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