There are quite a few things many pregnant women have to remove from their diets, such as alcohol or too many sweets, but you might want to make sure you get enough protein if you're expecting. reports that researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that, in rats, a low-protein diet raises testosterone levels in pregnant moms—and more testosterone reaching the fetus increases the baby’s likelihood of developing adult hypertension.

It’s a matter of fetal programming, researchers believe. According to, “fetal programming is a term used to describe the impact of maternal stress on an unborn child's physical characteristics at birth, as well as its long-term health. The placenta is thought to be a major contributor to fetal programming due to its critical roles in hormone production and nutrient transport, as well as its susceptibility to environmental disruptions.”

The study found that a low-protein diet affects the activity of a particular enzyme in two parts of the placenta; the enzyme affected is one that reduces testosterone levels by converting the hormone into something less potent. The decreased activity of this enzyme may be what affects the fetal programming of hypertension.

While the study hasn’t yet been done on humans, it’s still important to keep those protein levels up if you’re an expectant mom and generally make sure that you follow any dietary advice given by your doctor and nutritionist.

(Photo by Rick Hawkins via

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