A pregnant mother's eating habits may influence her unborn child's chances of developing Alzheimer's disease, new research suggests.
Scientists found that offspring of mice fed a high fat diet were more likely as adults to experience impaired blood flow in the brain, a feature linked to the disease.
When the offspring were also fed a high-fat diet their brains became less able to rid themselves of harmful amyloid protein. Accumulations of sticky beta amyloid protein in the brain are a key Alzheimer's hallmark.
Dr Cheryl Hawkes, from the University of Southampton, said: "Our preliminary findings suggest that mothers' diets during pregnancy may have long-term effects on their children's brains and vascular health.
"We still need to do more work to understand how our findings translate to humans, but we have known for some time that protecting mothers' health during pregnancy can help lower the risk of health problems for their children."
The research was presented at the Alzheimer's Research UK conference in Oxford.
Dr Eric Karran, director of research at the charity, which funded the study, said: "It's important to remember that this research is in mice, but these results add to existing evidence suggesting that the risk of Alzheimer's disease in later life is affected by our health earlier in life.
"This study goes one step further by suggesting that what happens in the womb may also be important."