To me, it seems rather obvious that one's diet during pregnancy will affect the unborn child. Anything you eat will be processed by the gut and substances, whether they are nutritious or not so nutritious, will be passed on to the foetus via the placenta. After all, the only way it has access to food is through its mother!
Plus, as a scientist in physiology and neuroscience, I know for example that certain nutrients (sugar!!) actually change the wiring in your brain, and, in the case of sugar increase your liking of sugar (yes this sounds a lot like how addiction works...). I don't know whether this happens in foetuses as it does in adults, as their brains haven't fully developed yet, but I imagine that what you eat during pregnancy might have an effect on your child's (brain) development, and on how your child deals with hunger and satiety later on in life.
Thus, I wasn't surprised to read about a recent study in which a link has been found between a mother's diet during pregnancy and her child's body fat level at the age of 6 or 9.
It made me think, though, that mother's (or I should say "parents", really!) are the main influence on their kid's health not only before, but also after birth, because they are (or should be!) cooking their daily dinners. So whether it happens before or after birth, a child's level of body fat will depend on what its parents are feeding it (ah, let's discuss 'nutritious' school lunches some other time!).
So, is it important to know whether a mother's diet also affects a childs fat levels before birth? Everyone knows that healthy food is important in general, and when pregnant in particular. I think mothers have a responsability to make sure that their unborn babies are not negatively affected by their mother's behavior, be it by drinking, smoking or the things they eat. I thought this was common sense, so I was shocked to read in the research paper that a mere 24-31% of all mothers included in the study were actually smoking during pregnancy...
Furthermore, I think to only study a child's fat levels is giving a rather limiting picture. I do realise that researchers need to start somewhere if they want to build a clear picture of how things work, but I also think that there's too much focus on fat, in the news, in commercials, fashion, health information etc.
What do you think?
Do we need more studies to tell us how important healthy food is? How important healthy behaviour is?
Should we focus on fat this much?
Why is it so difficult to behave healthily when there is so much information about how damaging certain behaviors (smoking, drinking, bad diet etc) are?
Are people deliberately ignoring this kind of information or is the addiction that strong?
Please share your opinions on this topic with us!!
For more background, you can read the article on the NHS website www.nhs.uk/news/2011/04April/Pages/pregnancy-diet-and-child-obesity.aspx
The original article is publised in Diabetes 2011, published online April 6.