Womens Health

Preconception Diet for Healthier Offspring

What Mom Eats

We have long heard the old saying, "You are what you eat," and the saying may or may not be true, but today, scientific researchers are finding that, in fact, you are what your mother ate. In a nutshell, maternal diet and nutrition may have very profound consequences upon the future adult health of your offspring.

The Next Generation

It has long been known that smaller birth weights are associated with diseases contracted later on in life such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke. In recent times, we've become aware that poor nutrition around the time of the fertilization of maternal eggs and at the time of their implantation may also have detrimental effects on the adult life of our offspring. Now, Adam Watkins and his colleagues, writing for The Journal of Physiology, have gone one step further, proving that even before conception, the maternal diet is vital to the good health of the next generation.

Watkins and his colleagues had researchers feed female mice a special low-protein diet during one three and a half day cycle of ovulation. Then, the mice were allowed to mate. The mouse offspring were then studied and seen to suffer from a large variety of maladies. The results were profound, and seemed to prove that even as the egg first leaves the ovary, at the beginning of its maturation cycle, the egg is subject to the ill effects of nutritional deficiencies in the diet of the mother, which may, in turn, have a significant effect on its viability.

Watkins and his colleagues found that the mouse pups suffered from many ailments. The pups in the study often displayed signs of hypertension (high blood pressure) and many of them had blood vessels that didn't function as they should-the vessels refused to dilate, even when treated with chemical reagents that should have brought on dilation. The pups also tended to have kidneys of abnormal structure and size. Behavioral effects were seen as well; with the pups exhibiting reduced exploratory activity.

The study is promising and scientists are excited about these discoveries, but Watkins warns that the scientific community needs to do more research to prove that there is a link between human maternal nutrition and future adult health. Says Watkins, "These disturbing effects cannot necessarily be extrapolated to the human condition, but do illustrate the need to investigate whether such a link might exist in women."  

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