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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Maternal Metabolism and Obesity

Principal Investigators: Professor Dena Towner, M.D., Clinical Science Lead Ratna Mukherjea, Ph.D., Associate Professor Frederic Chedin, Ph.D., Professor John Rutledge, M.D., Assistant Professor Anita Moon-Grady, M.D.


  1. The “Walnut Study” is evaluating the hypothesis that women consuming 1 oz of walnuts/day, and therefore having a higher intake of the omega-3 fatty acids, during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and the first 6 weeks of lactation will have lower serum insulin concentrations, lower glucose response to an oral glucose load, lower free fatty acids and triglyceride levels, lower biomarkers of inflammation, and higher levels of n3 and n6 fatty acids in maternal serum during pregnancy and lactation and higher breast milk levels of these essential fatty acids. This study will be the first to evaluate the beneficial effects of walnut intake during pregnancy and thus the effects of omega 3 fatty acids in the diet.
  2. We are investigating the effects of maternal serum lipids on placental vascular function. The hypothesis being that the increased lipids and triglyceride rich lipoproteins (TRGL) that are present in obese women can lead to vascular changes in utero to the fetus which have live long imprinted effects and thus the adult health of the offspring.
  3. We are investigating if there are different methylation patterns of genes in fetuses born to normal weigh women versus obese women. Again investigating the impact on fetal imprinting and ramification for later adult life.
  4. With Anita Grady, we are proposing a study to look at fetal cardiac function (diastolic and systolic function) in utero comparing obese and non-obese patients in conjunction with the above studies.