By Beth Bader
In our book, we explain a lot about the amount of influence you have over your kids’ diets. In fact, you are the primary influence for things like how many fruits and vegetables your child likes and you determine about 72 percent of your child’s diet — even when it feels like a no-win struggle.
But, what you eat while pregnant may also influence your child’s health than most women realize. As scientists begin to focus on epigenics — the relationship between genetics and environmental factors on how those genes are expressed — new, compelling research shows your diet while pregnant can be a predictor of your child’s IQ, risk of autism, and future risk of obesity and her long term health including how well she ages as an adult.
Six top reasons to eat healthy while you are pregnant:
Lower Risk of Type II Diabetes and Age-related Diseases
According to research funded by the BBSRC and the British Heart Foundation, your diet regulates your baby’s development of a gene called Hnf4a. This gene is related to pancreas development and a child’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A poor diet during pregnancy increases the rate that this gene is altered in your child as he ages. In related research published in the Journal of Lipid Research, a high fat diet during pregnancy is increased the likelihood of not just your child developing Type II diabetes, but your grandchildren as well.
Lower Risk of Obesity in Children, and Heart Disease as Adults
Mothers who consume junk foods high in fat and sugar while pregnant, give birth to infants with elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Research published in The Journal of Physiology showed that these kids were not only more likely to be obese as adolescents, but may have lasting alterations to their metabolism, including liver damage, and an increase in their tendency to gain weight and overeat. Conversely, if a mother’s diet is high in healthy antioxidants, a child’s risk of obesity is decreased.
Decreased Risk of Autism
Babies born from a mother who is obese, has high blood pressure, or has diabetes — type I, type II, or gestational diabetes — have a 60 percent increased risk of developing autism. For all these women, it’s advisable to seek a high-risk obstetrician and for diabetics, keep blood sugars well-controlled through a healthy, managed diet to minimize this risk.
Consider eating more organic produce while you are pregnant. Three separate studies, funded by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, point to a relationship between pesticide exposure for pregnant moms and a significant decrease in IQ for their children. For every 10-fold increase of a mother’s exposure to organophosphates — the class of pesticides studied — her child had an average drop of 5.5 I.Q. points. Researchers compared the impact of pesticide exposure to the similar discovery of the effects of lead on children’s I.Q.s.
Lower Risk of Early Onset Puberty
A high fat diet during pregnancy may also be linked to early-onset puberty in girls. Early puberty is a risk factor for obesity, insulin resistance, teenage depression, and breast cancer in adulthood. The study, from The Liggins Institute of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, also indicated that the mother’s diet had more influence on the risk of early onset puberty than the child’s own diet after birth.
Less Picky Eaters
Before your child was old enough to demand mac and cheese, the foods you ate during pregnancy already set some taste preferences for your child by “flavoring” the amniotic fluid, according to research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. Think of pregnancy as the easiest time in your child’s life to get them to eat their vegetables!