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What You Eat Affects the Baby You've Not Even Had Yet

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Pregnancy related image Photo: Getty Images

It’s not news that consuming a balanced diet during pregnancy is critical for helping develop and nurture a healthy baby.

But a recent study found that a woman’s diet even prior to conception affects a baby’s risk for reduced birth weight and increases the likelihood of a child developing type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Not only do women have to worry about eating a balanced and proper diet during pregnancy, but here’s yet another reason to live a balanced lifestyle and make proper food choices all the time.

The study was presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Glasgow on July 2, 2011, and used an animal model to demonstrate how pre-maternal diet impacts a child’s health.

In the experiment, mice that were fed a low protein diet for 10 weeks before conception – but had a normal diet during pregnancy – gave birth to offspring that had lower birth weights, showed catch-up growth after weaning and increased insulin sensitivity.

“If humans respond in the same way as mice to pre-conception diet as well then women should not only consider what they eat during pregnancy but also before pregnancy if they want to reduce the risk of their future children acquiring lifestyle diseases,” according to the study’s lead researcher, Ms. Anete Dudele from the University of Aarhus.

“Low birth weight and catch-up growth is associated with enhanced insulin-sensitivity in young adults, this then deteriorates into insulin resistance and type II diabetes with increased age. There is also evidence that male offspring are more likely to develop obesity," she continued.

Another group of researchers found similar outcomes from their work published in the Journal of Physiology, which examined poor diet during pregnancy.

Dr. Stephanie Bayol and Professor Neil Stickland compared the offspring of rats fed a diet of processed junk food such as doughnuts, muffins, biscuits, crisps and sweets during pregnancy and lactation, and compared their offspring with those fed a healthy diet of regular feed.

What was interesting about their findings was that they also found that male offspring were affected differently than female offspring by a mother’s poor diet. The team found that male offspring whose mothers had gorged on junk food had higher levels of insulin than did female offspring and thus, a greater risk for developing diabetes.

Diet both before inception and during pregnancy can have lifelong effects on your offspring, so make sure to eat balanced and healthy year 'round.

Pre-pregnancy diet affects the health of future offspring

Poor Diet During Pregnancy May Have Long Term Impact On Child's Health, Study Suggests

Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

Reviewed July 5, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Alison Stanton

Bailey Mosier is a freelance journalist living in Orlando, Florida. She received a Masters of Journalism from Arizona State University, played D-I golf, has been editor of a Scottsdale-based golf magazine and currently contributes to GolfChannel.com. She aims to live an active, healthy lifestyle full of sunshine and smiles.

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