The short answer? True! And it makes sense – almost everything your baby needs to grow and develop is provided by you. Nutrients that power your body are extracted from food and carried through the placenta into your baby’s bloodstream. In other words, your baby’s diet is the same as yours, which can influence their health in the future. Keep reading to find out how your food choices can affect your baby’s risk of developing chronic conditions like obesity, asthma and food allergies.
With recent obesity rates in Australia skyrocketing, there has been a big focus on research into weight gain. One study of over 90,000 participants found that regularly consuming sugar- or artificially-sweetened beverages (like regular/diet soft drinks and fruit drinks) during pregnancy increases your baby’s risk of developing childhood obesity by almost 50%. Every kilogram you gain during your pregnancy increases your baby’s fat mass by around 9.5 grams – this may not sound like much but on a 3kg bub, it’s pretty significant! Gaining excess weight during pregnancy can almost double the likelihood of high birth weight – in turn, this increases the risk of your child becoming overweight or obese at some point in his or her life.
Although asthma is thought to be at least partly genetic, there are ways to minimise your baby’s risk. Research has found an association between adequate maternal vitamin D and omega-3 intake during pregnancy and a decreased rate of asthma in babies. There have also been links shown between pregnancy diets that are high in sugar and the development of asthma in the baby, so it is important to replace sweetened snack foods with nuts and seeds rich in omega-3.
It’s logical to think that avoiding typically allergic foods (like peanuts and eggs) during your pregnancy might help prevent your baby from developing a food allergy but this is not the case! At present, there is no research to support excluding certain foods from your pregnancy diet for allergy prevention – in fact, one study found that babies whose mothers consume more peanuts have a lower risk of developing an allergy to them. Breastfeeding helps to prevent the development of many allergies, as it delays exposure and provides your baby with antibodies that help them to develop a healthy gut. On top of this, adequate omega-3 intake during pregnancy can help prevent allergic reactions of the skin (like eczema) during early life.
Overall, it’s clear that eating a balanced diet during pregnancy that is rich in omega-3 and low in added sugars is vital for the health of your baby throughout his or her lifetime. For a further explanation about how your diet can affect your baby’s genetics, join my 8 Simple Steps to a Healthy Pregnancy Program, where I’ll help you to improve your health during pregnancy and beyond.
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