And what if what you ate on a daily basis influenced the health of your future baby?
It has been while now since pregnant women have known that as soon as the pink line appears on that famous ‘Test’, it’s time to put away the bottles of alcohol and to stop buying cigarettes.
But it now seems that it’s not only Mum’s diet, but also Daddy’s, that has an important role to play in the health of our future offspring, and not only during those precious 9 months!
Mum’s diet and her lifestyle Influence the baby
If you’re a Mum, or a Future Mum, you’ve probably heard that cravings and improbable food cravings are an integral part of pregnancy. It could be a craving for chips at 1am when your baby moves too much, or the Pan au Chocolate in the morning, or that famous Strawberries with Chantilly? It’s true, babies must grow, but it’s still important to pay attention to what you eat … and not just during your pregnancy!
Scientists have recently highlighted the fact that the dietary habits of future mothers have an impact on a baby’s health, weeks or even months before its conception. Surprising? Not really! If you think about it, a future mother who is malnourished and / or suffers from a dietary deficiency will have little chance of giving birth to a healthy baby.
It seems that diet and lifestyle, including excess sugar, caffeine, fat, not only have a direct impact on the quality of the egg before fertilisation, but also on the development of the embryo. In other words, a woman who is hoping to procreate must already have established a healthy lifestyle, ideally, since her teenage years. It is also important she is in good physical shape to avoid being too overweight (and also, too skinny!) in order to limit the risks of metabolic diseases (diabetes , obesity …), cardiovascular problems, immune system problems and neurological problems in her baby.
Ideally, she should continue to give herself the healthiest possible care during and after pregnancy, especially if she is breastfeeding. Because the perinatal period is just as important as the period of pre-conception in the development and the future of the child.
Dad is also involved!
And yes ladies! You can also shut the cupboard on the nose of your partner, because he also has a little role to play!
In fact, one study has shown that paternal obesity leads to a deterioration of sperm quality and increases the risk of chronic diseases.
Thus, the more parents are at risk (obesity, significant weight gain during pregnancy, high blood sugar etc…) so the more likely the child is at risk of becoming overweight or of suffering from obesity. And the father’s obesity has as much effect on the risk of the child as the mother’s. And when both parents are overweight, the risk is doubled! Clearly ladies, you can start cooking your healthy dishes for two tonight!
But how does it work ?
Without going into a Harvard geneticist’s explanation (mind you…), I can explain the mechanisms by simply telling you that stress, lifestyle, diet, nutritional deficiencies, and in general, exposure to different health risks/factors create “fingerprints” on your DNA. DNA is not modified in the true sense of the term, but the mechanisms of DNA (e.g.methylation) can activate, or on the contrary, extinguish the expression of certain genes, including genes involved in energetic balance, metabolism and energy expenditure. These processes are reversible so it is possible to start anew but it takes time! It’s therefore important to anticipate your pregnancy and to nourish your children in the healthiest possible way from birth to avoid the appearance of potential diseases.
Basically, what should you do?
Well, after all we have said, I think the only obvious answer is: adopt a balanced diet and lifestyle as soon as possible! And this is not just exclusive to you, but also to your partner! Of course, we are not saying eat salad after salad with more salad. You should know us by now, that’s not how we eat at home! But make the most of fresh, seasonal produce, eat everything, indulge yourself, but try to keep it BALANCED.
If you are already pregnant, remember that vitamin B9 supplementation, a vitamin that contributes to your baby’s neuronal development (helps prevent Spina Bifida) has become obligatory and that it is important to start taking the vitamin four weeks before conception and to continue taking it during the first two months of pregnancy. Of course, these supplements are important to correct maternal deficiencies, but they are often insufficient to completely preserve a child’s health. It is therefore essential to eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals, especially B9-rich foods such as green vegetables, eggs … but also iodine, because it also contributes to the neuronal development of your child.
Finally, all these findings have lead authorities to set up campaigns on parental preparation for pregnancy. Focusing more on the nutritional aspect, they are actively giving out advice and support to help people understand that the lifestyle that precedes and follows the conception of a baby has a direct impact on the baby’s health. Our common aim is to share these campaigns so that our future children are healthier!