You Are What You Eat and So Is Your Baby
A child’s future bone development is strongly affected by mother’s diet in the first trimester of pregnancy. And the effects may be permanent, which would mean maternal diet is even more crucial for baby’s health, especially at the beginning of pregnancy. That’s the conclusion of a new study by Dutch researchers published late last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers examined mothers’ intakes of a range of nutrients in the first trimester of pregnancy. Specific nutrients included fat, protein and carbohydrates, and essential minerals needed for healthy bones, such as phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. Investigators also considered how much folate and vitamin B12 women consumed during the first three months of pregnancy, and they measured levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that builds up when a person doesn’t get enough B vitamins in the diet.
Children born to women who consumed more protein, calcium, phosphorous and vitamin B12 during pregnancy had greater bone density at six years of age than children born to women who had lower intakes of these nutrients. Conversely, women with higher intakes of carbohydrates, and higher blood levels of homocysteine during the first trimester, had children whose bones were relatively less dense (and thus, weaker) by about six years of age. Mothers’ intakes of fat and magnesium did not appear to be related to children’s bone mass at six years of age.
Researchers conceded the findings could mean that women with better first-trimester nutrition were simply more likely to feed their children a healthier diet, which encourages stronger bones. But investigators suspect the link between good diet during pregnancy and children’s eventual bone strength is more direct. They concluded, “...fetal nutritional exposures may permanently influence bone development.”
Heppe DH, Medina-Gomez C, Hofman A, Franco OH, Rivadeneira F, Jaddoe VW. Maternal first-trimester diet and childhood bone mass: the Generation R Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 May 29. [Epub ahead of print]