A study released recently revealed some astounding results with regard to the foods pregnant women eat. Common sense always dictated, “Eat healthier for your baby to be healthy”. Yet food urges and frequent jokes about food cravings too often win the day. From comedic comments about pickles and ice cream to regular consumption of Hostess Ho Hos, nearly every family has it stories about what mom ate while she was pregnant. This recent study indicates it may not be a laughing matter at all! What a woman eats just prior to and during her pregnancy can and will affect the way the baby’s genes express….for better or worse!
This study, published in the most recent issue of the journal Nature Communications, observed several thousand women who became pregnant and how nutrients might affect their baby’s DNA. Nutrients in the mother’s blood stream were compared to blood and hair samples from the babies. What was found was that nutrients in greater quantity or in absence had a direct affect on the how the DNA of the baby expressed. In other words, whether or not a gene from the DNA would actually show itself or not. This has been demonstrated in the past in animal studies. such as research which showed the color of hair on a mouse could be changed simply by the nutrients provided to the mouse. But as the lead researcher in the study, Branwig Henig noted, “Our results represent the first demonstration in humans that a mother’s nutritional well-being at the time of conception can change how her child’s genes will be interpreted, with a life-long impact,” Simply amazing! What that means is genes can be shut off or turned on permanently simply by what mom eats and the nutrients which get in her blood and directly impact the baby’s genes.
The way this is occurring is through impacting what is called the “epigenetic” component of the DNA. We all have heard how genes express to create us as people….a gene for eye color, curly hair, male pattern baldness and even cancer…but what most people don’t know is that genes are directly impacted by this epigenome which allows gene to be turned on and off!! As one researcher expressed it, “It’s like the epigenome is the puppeteer and the DNA is the puppet”….so this material around the DNA is what affects the genes themselves. We may be hardwired in our genetics but the wonderful thing is we can directly cause re-wiring through diet and lifestyle! This current study is a demonstration of that fact!
The ultimate take away from this study is that not only can what a mom eats provide her with a healthy baby….it can provide that baby with permanent changes to his/her health for a lifetime! We are what we eat….AND what mom ate, too!