ROCKVILLE, Maryland – Women who are not careful about what they eat during pregnancy can affect the health of their child until their teenage years. Nutrition during pregnancy plays a central role in determining a child’s body mass index (BMI) even during adolescence, according to a new study.
Children who are overweight, which means their BMI is over 24.9, have an increased risk of asthma, type 2 diabetes, and orthopedic disorders. In the United States, nearly 15 million children and adolescents are obese. Eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables and oils, as well as sources of vitamin D and omega-3s could help remedy this, according to the study’s authors.
“To date, studies linking maternal nutrition during pregnancy and offspring growth have focused on the newborn and infancy period, with limited data extending later into the period. ‘childhood,’ says lead author of the study, Dr. Carmen Monthé-Drèze, of Harvard University, in a press release. “We wanted to better understand the dynamic growth changes that occur from infancy through adolescence as a result of maternal nutrition during pregnancy. We specifically wanted to assess whether there are distinct periods between birth and adolescence where rates of weight gain are more sensitive to the programming effects of nutrition during pregnancy.
The researchers analyzed data from 1,459 mothers and children, collected by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. Mothers were asked to complete food questionnaires during their pregnancy so that researchers could assess their diet using the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII), Mediterranean Diet Score, and Alternative Feeding Index. healthy for pregnancy.
These three “food indices” are used to determine whether a person is getting the right amount of nutrients from their diet, including those known to reduce disease risk. The child’s weight and height were then measured several times between birth and adolescence to calculate their BMI score.
“The results suggest that maternal nutrition during pregnancy may have a long-term impact on children’s weight trajectories, and that there are specific developmental periods during which nutrition during pregnancy can influence the growth of the offspring.” , explains Dr Monthé-Drèze. “For example, we found that a pregnancy diet with a higher inflammatory potential was associated with faster rates of BMI growth in children aged three to ten. We also found that lower adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet during pregnancy was associated with higher BMI trajectories during adolescence.
Women need to be made aware of the importance of healthy eating during pregnancy, the researchers said. “It is important to advise women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant on the importance of healthy eating during pregnancy,” adds Dr Monthé-Drèze. “In particular, women who are or may become pregnant should consider a Mediterranean diet, which may not only benefit their own health, but can also help their child maintain a healthy weight.”
A Mediterranean-style diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, low-mercury fish, and good quality oils such as extra virgin olive oil. These foods provide important sources of vitamin D, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and other nutrients that have been shown to be beneficial for the health of the baby.
“Research has shown that the foods we eat during pregnancy can influence a growing child’s metabolism as well as their eating behaviors and food preferences. In addition, the food choices women make during pregnancy are likely to be similar to the food choices they offer their children, ”explains Dr Monthé-Drèze. “Therefore, it is conceivable that maternal nutrition during pregnancy could be linked to long-term weight problems in the offspring. Further research is therefore needed to better understand the relationship between maternal nutrition during pregnancy and infant BMI and weight gain patterns. “
Health care providers should pay special attention to children whose mothers did not eat a healthy diet during pregnancy. A woman’s nutritional needs during pregnancy vary widely. So expecting mothers should consult their doctor to find out which diet is best for them.
The results are published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
SWNS writer Tom Campbell contributed to this report.