Eating too many crisps during pregnancy could have a negative effect on the development of the baby, a study suggests.
Crisps contain an omega-6 fat called linoleic acid that was previously thought to have health benefits such as lowering blood cholesterol.
But researchers found that feeding rats with three times the recommended daily intake of linoleic acid decreased hormones that regulate the growth and development of their unborn babies.
It also affected their liver function and increased proteins that cause contractions in the uterus, according to the findings published in The Journal of Physiology.
Up until recently, people were encouraged to consume omega-6 fats because it was thought to help to reduce blood cholesterol.
And vegetable oil, which also contains linoleic acid, was marketed as a healthy and cheaper alternative to using animal fats in cooking.
Study senior author Dr Deanne Skelly, of Griffith University, said: “It is important for pregnant women to consider their diet, and our research is yet another example that potentially consuming too much of a certain type of nutrient can have a negative impact on the growing baby.”
The research team at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, fed rats for 10 weeks on a diet with high linoelic acid and mated them.
They then investigated the effects of the diet on their pregnancy and the development of their offspring.
The team also found rat mothers who ate a high linoleic acid diet had a reduced number of male babies.
It is not known whether the same effects would be seen in humans or what amounts of linoleic acid would be harmful.