The role of maternal diet on offspring gut microbiota development: A review

J Neurosci Res. 2021 Jan;99(1):284-293. doi: 10.1002/jnr.24605. Epub 2020 Feb 28.


In offspring, an adequate maternal diet is important for neurodevelopment. One mechanism by which maternal diet impacts neurodevelopment is through its dynamic role in the development of the gut microbiota. Communication between the gut, and its associated microbiota, and the brain is facilitated by the vagus nerve, in addition to other routes. Currently, the mechanisms through which maternal diet impacts offspring microbiota development are not well-defined. Therefore, this review aims to investigate the relationship between maternal diet during pregnancy and offspring microbiota development and its impact on neurodevelopment. Both human and animal model studies were reviewed to understand the impact of maternal diet on offspring microbiota development and potential consequences on neurodevelopment. In the period after birth, as reported in both human and model system studies, maternal diet impacts offspring bacterial colonization (e.g., decreased presence of Lactobacillus reuteri as a result of a high-fat maternal diet). It remains unknown whether these changes persist into adulthood and whether they impact vulnerability to disease. Therefore, further long-term studies are required in both human and model systems to study these changes. Our survey of the literature indicates that maternal diet influences early postnatal microbiota development, which in turn, may serve as a mechanism through which maternal diet impacts neurodevelopment.

Keywords: diet; maternal; microbiota; neurodevelopment; offspring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*