The process of ageing begins even before we are born, says a new study, which used rats to model pregnancy and foetal development.
The study showed that providing mothers with a diet loaded with antioxidants during pregnancy meant that their offspring aged more slowly during adulthood. The offspring of mothers with lower levels of oxygen in the womb can age more quickly in adulthood. “Antioxidants are known to reduce ageing, but here, we show for the first time that giving them to pregnant mothers can slow down the ageing clock of their offspring,” said first author Beth Allison from the University of Cambridge in Britain.
The researchers found that adult rats born from mothers who had less oxygen during pregnancy had shorter telomeres — essential part of human cells that affects the age of cells—than rats born from normal pregnancies.
However, when pregnant mothers in the group were given antioxidant supplements, this lowered the risk among their offspring.