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Malnutrition And Stress Damages Foetus' Muscles

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Maternal malnutrition, a form of stress can damage the growth of muscles of the newborn. Several studies have found a link between foetal malnutrition, low birth weight and low muscle mass and strength throughout life. The experts say, “We need muscles to breathe, to eat and swallow and to move”. If those muscles are compromised in any way during foetal development, those functions may be compromised in the newborn baby and affect his or her growth.

Malnutrition and stress affect muscle development and are two major environmental factors that affect foetal growth. Interestingly, these two factors expose the foetus to high levels of cortisol, an endogenous glucocorticoid, which is a class of stress steroid hormone.

In the study it has been found that lack of proper nutrition, a form of stress, in an expectant woman raises the levels of cortisol in her blood. In adults, glucocorticoids have negative effects in the muscles, for instance, they cause atrophy and insulin resistance. Why would the newborn be any different?” Hence, the health of future generations starts with the health of the mother.


Gokulakrishnan G., et al., 2017, “Precocious glucocorticoid exposure reduces skeletal muscle satellite cells in the fetal rat,” Journal of Endocrinology; 232(3): 561-572. [Web Reference]

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