ESTIMATED READING TIME 4 MINUTES
There’s an epidemic of lifestyle diseases in the UK, with chronic illnesses on the rise. According to the British Heart Foundation, 7.6 million adults in the UK have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Almost 5 million adults suffer from diabetes.
As a parent-to-be, imagine if it was possible to reduce your child’s future risk of developing these lifestyle diseases? The good news is that you can, as science is discovering the long-lasting effects of the nutrients available to your baby in your womb.
Read on to find out how you can give your child the most healthy start in life.
Scientists have noted babies with a low birth weight are more likely to suffer from Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure as an adult, and have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease 1. Low birth weight is linked to depression and anxiety in adulthood, too.
When the foetus is in the womb, scientists believe metabolic set points are established. These dictate how the baby’s body reacts in later life. If nutrients are in short supply early on, it’s as if the foetus expects similar conditions over its lifetime. So it develops frugal physiological mechanisms to cope with these. However, if the infant then grows up with a plentiful supply of food, especially sugary foods, they’re more likely to develop health issues because of the set points created to cope with nutrient shortages.
Other studies have shown scarcity of nutrients in the womb can lead the foetus’s cells to become resistant to insulin 2. This is a strategy designed to shunt glucose to the brain, where it’s constantly needed. If high-energy food then becomes abundant after birth, this reduced insulin sensitivity can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes.
Having a higher birth weight than average is connected with poorer health, too.
Many women develop diabetes themselves when pregnant, with some estimates putting this at up to 16% of all pregnancies. If an expectant mother’s blood sugar level is high, this will tend to lead to a baby who is heavier at birth, and has out-of-kilter insulin mechanisms, because the set points for insulin are laid down in the womb. Such infants have an increased risk of developing obesity and Type 2 diabetes later in life.
According to Cancer Research UK, babies with a higher-than-average birth weight (defined as above 8 pounds 15 ounces) are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, polycystic ovarian syndrome, prostate and testicular cancer and even childhood leukaemia.
Even if the infants themselves then eat a nutritious diet and maintain a lifelong healthy weight, they still seem to have a higher risk of developing these health issues. So the template for future metabolic health is established very early on. The time before birth is crucial, with adverse nutrition having lifelong impacts.
You have a wonderful opportunity as a prospective Mum to give your baby the very best start in life, starting from before they’re born.
Birth weight is only a rough guide of the developing embryo’s nutritional status – science will likely discover more about this topic in the future. But we do know certain nutrients are incredibly important for developing embryos.
One such nutrient is Vitamin D. Low levels of this vitamin before birth have been strongly linked with metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, immune issues and asthma in later life. It’s important for nerve cell and brain development, having lifelong effects. Vitamin D is fairly scarce in food as it’s largely obtained from sunlight, so a supplement may be advised.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also needed for healthy brain development. Brain cells are surrounded by a fatty membrane, and Omega 3 fats help ensure the membrane remains fluid, allowing brain cells to communicate with each other. In one study, when pregnant women took Omega 3 supplements, their infants had better mental health, attention and cognition than those who didn’t. Omega 3 fats are found in mackerel, trout and sardines, along with flax oil, chia seeds and walnuts.
All this means your food choices during pregnancy can reduce your baby’s likelihood of developing many health issues later in life.
If you’d like to benefit the lifelong health of your baby and even your future grandchildren by providing the best possible nutrition while your infant is still in your womb, I can help. Personalised dietary, nutrient and lifestyle modifications ensure you pass on the precious gift of lifelong health.
I will guide you every step of the way on your journey towards healthy motherhood. Contact Embracing Nutrition today.
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