With the current epidemic of obesity and Type II diabetes among both children and adults, researchers are trying to determine if what our mothers ate influences our future health. Their conclusion: it does?a lot.

Dr. Donald Novak says, “There are many people around the world who don’t have enough protein in their diets, and malnutrition is a major cause of babies being born small around the world. There is a lot of evidence that when infants are born small, compared to their counterparts, they have a higher risk of these specific disorders. We are trying to sort out why that might be.” But protein deprivation during pregnancy doesn’t always produce small offspring. It’s linked to the development of a larger body type in rats, a tendency that persists for two generations.

The major health problem in the West in people getting too big, but we now know that what we were fed as infants could be a major cause of obesity. Pediatrician Dr. Josef Neu says, “Human babies who are fed their mother’s milk tend to get a lower protein intake than babies who are fed formula. There is a higher incidence of obesity when the kids get older in the formula-fed babies?It might have something to do with the increase in Type II diabetes that we?re seeing.” But they’ve discovered that eating too much protein while pregnant could lead to Type II in your children later on.

To make things even more confusing, we’re told to eat fish at least once a week, but pregnant women are warned against the mercury in most of them. Recent recommendations by the FDA advising pregnant women to limit mercury-containing fish in their diets may have the unintended consequence of depriving fetuses of essential nutrients. Although excessive mercury intake during pregnancy can harm the neurological development of fetuses, a recent study found that the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish may play a critical role in an infant’s neurocognitive development. In other words, if you want a smart baby, eat fish.

Researchers tested six-month-old infants’ cognitive ability and compared it to both the amount of fish consumed by the mother during pregnancy and the amount of mercury found in the mother’s hair. As had been found in previous studies, elevated maternal mercury levels were associated with a deficit in infant cognition. However, higher fish intake was associated with higher infant cognition, especially after adjusting for mercury levels.

While these results may seem contradictory, researchers found that the infants who scored highest on cognitive tests were those whose mothers ate more fish and had lower levels of hair mercury.

The authors of the study say, “The most likely explanation is that the benefit is conferred by consuming fish types with the combination of relatively little mercury and high amounts of beneficial nutrients.” Fish that tend to be higher in n-3 fatty acids but lower in mercury include salmon, canned light tuna, and sardines.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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