You are what your mom ate!

You are what your mom ate!
Highlights

Well, the age old dictum says ‘you are what you eat’! The science today says, you are not just what you eat but what your mom ate when you were in her womb.Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease are rapidly increasing and have become some of the leading cause of disability and premature death in India.

Well, the age old dictum says ‘you are what you eat’! The science today says, you are not just what you eat but what your mom ate when you were in her womb.Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease are rapidly increasing and have become some of the leading cause of disability and premature death in India.

Roughly about 7% of adult population in India suffer from Diabetes. Currently, India has 62.4 million diabetics (ICMR). Similarly, Coronary heart disease (CHD) affects Indians with greater frequency and at a younger age than many other developing countries. A number of studies have shown that these diseases have their origin in foetal life and that it is the critical period in life that determines most of the functional abilities and disease susceptibilities of an individual.
All the nutrients provided to the baby are derived from the mother’s food, therefore the growth and development of the baby is determined by what the mother eats. According to DOHaD - Developmental Origins of Health and Disease named after the scientist who lead this famous hypothesis (Barker’s hypothesis) suggests that the birth weight of the newborn is a powerful predictor of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, chronic lung disease and mental illness in adulthood.
In simple terms- babies that are born small are more likely to have CHD and diabetes. Babies who are undernourished in the womb and who are not fed with the right kind and quantity of food have a higher risk of stunting and poor cognitive function and their system is programmed in such a way that when they grow as adults they become obese easily and have higher chances of getting diabetes or hypertension when compared with babies that are born with normal weight (birth weight >2.5 kg to 3.5 kg).
Conversely, recent evidences suggest that overweight and obesity during pregnancy can also predispose the foetus to higher risk of CHD and diabetes. Babies born to mothers whose fat and calorie intakes are high (more than recommended) during pregnancy also stand a higher risk of becoming obese, diabetic and hypertensive. Right nutrition from start of pregnancy to first two years of life is crucial in determining the health status for life.
Though mechanisms are unclear, a common pathway such as inflammation in the foetus or gestational membranes may be operating in both under-nutrition and over-nutrition in pregnancy. One mechanism that has been suggested recently is impairment of skeletal muscle development in the developing foetus.
Low calorie or high fat or high calorie diet in the pregnant women will impair baby’s (foetus) muscle development and increase adipose (fat tissues) tissue formation inside the skeletal muscles and connective tissues of the growing foetus. Poor foetal skeletal muscle development impairs glucose and fatty acid metabolism and insulin function and thus predisposes offspring to diabetes and obesity later in life even with little disturbance in calorie intake.
In the first seven days, the baby nourishes with the nutrients from the just fertilized ovum, then the amniotic fluid and later on throughout the pregnancy the baby receives nutrients via the placenta. In 40 weeks, the foetus that starts as a single cell is a full grown baby. Most organs start developing from the second or third week of gestation. If the foetus is not supplied with adequate nutrients or exposed to high fat foods at those times the damage can be irreversible.
Not only nutrition during foetal life but nutrition from date of child’s birth to second birthday is very crucial for optimal cognitive function and also for good academic performance. Also, it has been shown that poor nutrition during this period causes stunting in children and makes the child more susceptible to infection and poor memory. Exclusive breast feeding for six months is proven to be highly cost effective intervention to combat nutrition related complications.
Thus it is extremely important to pay attention to pregnant woman care and nutrition and nutrition during the first 2years of life.
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