Could what you eat during pregnancy affect your child's health as they grow up?
Midwives and OBGYNs get these kinds of question all the time from our patients. What should I be eating during pregnancy? Most of us recommend a healthy balanced diet with perhaps some changes for women at risk for diabetes, such as those with PCOS. Most women's health care professionals see proper nutrition during pregnancy as a way to give the baby the best chances for a good start in life.
It turns out that prenatal nutrition may be even more important than previously thought. A new study from a group in the UK suggests that a mom's diet may actually affect a baby's immune system and overall health. They looked at women of reproductive age in Gambia where they experience distinct dry and rainy seasons, and eat very different foods during the two seasons. The researchers looked at a gene called VTRNA2-1, what is called a tumor suppressor gene, a gene which controls how a person's immune system responds to infections and cancers. They found that this gene was expressed differently in children conceived in different seasons, presumably due to the change in diet.
So, what does this all mean? It suggests that maternal nutrition may affect the child's ability to fight off infections or cancer. It doesn't tell us what pregnant moms should or should not be eating, and should not be a cause for concern at this time. It only reinforces what midwives and OBs have been telling their patients for years: eat a healthy balanced diet.