Tag Archives: obesity

Is Our Fascination With Diet Even Affecting Our Unborn Children?

As information continues to flow about how maternal health impacts fetal health, expectant mothers have increasingly more to consider when it comes to diet and their unborn children.

Most are aware of the importance of having a calcium-rich diet for developing bones and getting enough folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. Certain types of fish, like swordfish and king mackerel, are a no-no due to high levels of mercury. And public health campaigns have been successful at spreading the word to cut alcohol consumption during pregnancy to help prevent premature delivery, mental retardation, birth defects and low birth weight babies.

Recent studies reveal that a mother’s behavior and habits may have an even further-reaching impact on her child’s life. Earlier this year, the journal Diabetes reported a study suggesting that a woman’s diet, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy, may alter the DNA of her baby in the womb and increase the risk of obesity.

 The BBC’s report on the study, explained it this way: “It is thought that a developing baby tries to predict the environment it will be born into, taking cues from its mother and adjusting its DNA.”

Studies in animals have shown that changes in diet can alter the function of genes–a process called epigenetic change. In this most recent study, researchers found children with a high degree of epigenetic change were more likely to develop a metabolism that “lays down more fat” leading to obesity, which can be carried into adulthood.


According to Yahoo! Health, one theory for this change is that an expectant mother who eats fewer carbs, which provide energy to the body, alters her baby’s metabolism by nurturing it in a carbohydrate-deprived environment.

Linking “epigenetic marker” with children carrying an average 6.6 pounds more than their peers by the ages six and nine, Professor Peter Gluckman from Auckland University’s Liggins Institute said the additional fat was likely to be carried well into adulthood.

Simply put, this study suggests a mother’s diet might impact her child’s risk of adulthood obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Note I said ‘might.’ The jury is still out on just how direct this association is, so let’s not jump to find another reason to blame our mothers for those extra pounds we can’t get rid of. We still have accountability to ourselves to take care of our bodies through good nutrition, exercise and other healthy behaviors.

We’re familiar with the adage: You are what you eat. It increasingly appears that you are also what your mother eats while you’re still in the womb. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s piece on other aspects of the maternal diet whose path is not so clear-cut to trace.

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Tucson School Say Adiós to Oreos

by Renée Canada

I remember the days of high school lunches consisting purely of those Friendly Sundae Cups. As an high honor roll student all through sophomore year, I would just flash my proudly earned “golden” card, which was basically a free pass to goodies at the school store and treats at lunch, and voila, I would have a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Sundae in hand. I felt like I was doing something illicit that I would later regret. Have you seen how many calories are in that small little cup? I had: 430, with 25g of fat, 29g of sugars. I knew I was more than tripling my caloric intake from my normal daily lunches of bologna and cheese sandwich, with carrots or grapes if I was lucky.

I remember gazing longingly at my friends’ lunches in middle school. Tresa’s mother always tucked little notes into her lunches which always included cookies or some such goodies, in addition to her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, on white bread, cut up in different shapes. My best friend Jenn, who always had ham and cheese sandwiches with mustard on white bread, usually had chips and/or a cookie as well. She never finished her entire meal.

So I with the measly baloney and cheese with mayo sandwiches on wheat bread always sniffed around like a vulture when I was done with my meals, waiting for everyone at the table to proclaim they were done. An apple would be abandoned. I’d eat it. Half a bag of chips would lay on the table ignored. I’d eat that too. And if someone had peanut butter and fluff, the biggest taboo in sandwiches, you can bet I’d figure out some way to trade up for that–usually with someone else’s leftovers.

Today, I can no longer stomach half the food I so hungrily scavenged from my lunch pals. I prefer my oatmeal with almond milk, apples, raisins and walnuts. My wheat bread with organic turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mustard for lunch. Hey, I even drink water 24/7, and I actually love it. I hardly ever drink soda, and I look for juice that actually has, you know, juice as its main ingredient. If we had a Whole Foods in town, I’d be pouring way too much money each week buying my groceries there. When I see food or beverages with high fructose corn syrup in it, I cast it off as if it had the devil’s handprint on it.

So reading today’s story about a Tucson elementary school’s decision to put all processed foods on their “no list” made me want to give someone a high-five, especially in the face of this nation’s obesity epidemic. With lunch meat and flavored yogurt on the no-food list, one wonders what children can consume. Teachers trade quesadillas made with white flour tortillas with whole wheat wraps topped with peanut butter and honey, which to be honest, sounds like an appetizing alternative. School Director and Founder Nancy Aiken may have a point, according to the article: “If all U.S. families allowed her school’s food rules…child obesity would be a rare problem.”

The only thing that makes is sad is thinking about birthdays at Children’s Success Academy: there will be no birthday cupcakes or cake for these kids. There is value in moderation or creativity with alternative ingredients. One can hardly put a candle on fruit or nuts, which is the school director’s suggested birthday “dessert.” Perhaps I should email the recipe to lip-smacking gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with no sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to Aiken. I think her students would thank me.

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