Female diet alters the nutrient composition of fluid in the womb Medical News Today

Scientists at the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine have discovered that maternal diet affects the nutrient composition of fluid in the womb of women and thus may aid in the development of nutritional interventions to support the very earliest stages of pregnancy.

The research carried out by Dr Alexandra Kermack, Dr Ying Cheong, Professor Nick Macklon and Dr Franchesca Houghton published online in Human Reproduction1, showed that that the concentrations of amino acids in the uterine fluid of non-pregnant women were affected by diet: a less healthy diet was associated with altered concentrations of amino acids compared to those with a healthy diet.

Dr Franchesca Houghton, Associate Professor at the University of Southampton was the senior author on the paper. She comments “This is the first report showing that diet can alter the nutrient composition of human uterine fluid, which nurtures the early embryo. Since we know that the environment in which an early embryo develops is important for future health, recognising that it can be altered by diet is of great significance.

“In this study we concentrated on amino acids as these have many important roles for example as building blocks of protein, as a source of energy and as antioxidants. At this stage, our findings are not trying to give dietary advice to women but further research is now required to determine the impact of diet around the time of conception, on the uterine environment and embryo developme

via Female diet alters the nutrient composition of fluid in the womb Medical News Today.


Study Sees Bigger Role for Placenta in Newborns’ Health:NYTimes

Not nutrition, but related..

A study led by Dr. Kjersti Aagaard found that the placenta has its own microbiome that may help shape the health of an infant.

The placenta, once thought sterile, actually harbors a world of bacteria that may influence the course of pregnancy and help shape an infant’s health and the bacterial makeup of its gut, a new study has found.

The research is part of a broader scientific effort to explore the microbiome, the trillions of microbes — bacteria, viruses and fungi — that colonize the human body. Those organisms affect digestion, metabolism and an unknown array of biological processes, and may play a role in the development of obesity, diabetes and other illnesses.

During pregnancy, the authors of the new study suspect, the wrong mix of bacteria in the placenta may contribute to premature births. Although the research is preliminary, it may help explain why periodontal disease and urinary infections in pregnant women are linked to an increased risk of premature birth. The findings also suggest a need for more studies on the effects of antibiotics taken during pregnancy.

The new study suggests that babies may acquire an important part of their normal gut bacteria from the placenta. If further research confirms the findings, that may be reassuring news for women who have had cesareans. Some researchers have suggested that babies born by cesarean miss out on helpful bacteria that they would normally be exposed to in the birth canal.

“I think women can be reassured that they have not doomed their infant’s microbiome for the rest of its life,” said Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, the first author of the new study, published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine. She added that studies were needed to determine the influence of cesareans on the microbiome.

Previous studies have looked at bacteria that inhabit the mouth, skin, vagina and intestines. But only recently has attention turned to the placenta, an organ that forms inside the uterus and acts as a life support system for the fetus. It provides oxygen and nutrients, removes wastes and secretes hormones.

“People are intrigued by the role of the placenta,” said Dr. Aagaard, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. “There’s no other time in life that we acquire a totally new organ. And then we get rid of it.”

She added, “We are just starting to catch a glimmer of this amazing organ that defines placental mammalian biology.”

Dr. Aagaard and her team became curious about the placenta when they noticed something puzzling in earlier research on the vaginal microbiome in pregnant women: The microbes that were most abundant in the mother’s vagina did not match the population in a newborn’s intestine. Scientists had assumed the bacterial profiles would be similar, particularly in babies born vaginally, who were thought to pick up the mother’s bacteria during birth. Dr. Aagaard and her colleagues began to question that assumption.

“It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to us,” she said. “It’s not like babies are hanging out in the vagina. They come shooting out pretty fast.” Also, she said, they emerge covered in a waxy substance called vernix, which most likely helps keep bacteria from latching on.

The researchers wondered if babies might acquire some of their intestinal bacteria before birth, maybe from the placenta.

So they collected placentas in the delivery room from 320 women, mostly black and Hispanic. Most had vaginal deliveries, and some had cesareans. Most of the births were at term, but some were premature.

The scientists searched the placental tissue for bacterial DNA, using a technique called shotgun metagenomic sequencing. They shaved off the outer layer of each placenta and tested samples from the inside, to avoid surface contamination.

“The placenta is not teeming with bacteria, but we can find them, and we can find them without looking too hard,” Dr. Aagaard said.

She said the placenta was less than 10 percent bacteria by mass, comparable to the eye or deeper regions of the skin, but very different from the intestine, which is 90 percent bacteria.

The study provides an “initial snapshot” of the placental microbiome, Dr. Aagaard said. About 300 different types of bacteria turned up, most of them harmless. The team compared the distribution of the types with what had been found previously in other parts of the body, including the mouth, skin, nose, vagina and gut. The closest match by far was between the placenta and the mouth, which, in turn, was much like that in babies’ intestines in the first week of life.

A scientist not involved in the study, Dr. David A. Relman, a microbiome expert at Stanford, said that Dr. Aagaard’s results agreed with those from his lab and others, which had found microbial DNA in amniotic fluid, apparently from the mother’s mouth, gut and vagina.

Dr. Aagaard said she thought that oral bacteria travel through the mother’s bloodstream to the placenta, take up residence there and find their way into the fetus. This is a theory. But research in animals supports it: Oral bacteria injected into a vein in mice home in on the placenta.

The idea also meshes with something that obstetricians have long noted: Women with periodontal disease have a higher risk of having premature or low-birth-weight babies. Treating the disease during pregnancy does not lower the risk. Preventing the disease or treating it before pregnancy seems more important, Dr. Aagaard said.

The study did not provide definitive evidence about periodontal disease because only one participant had it.

A disturbing finding was that when women had urinary infections early in pregnancy, even if the infections were cured, evidence of the bacteria still turned up in the placenta. Those infections increase the risk of premature birth.

The study also found that the microbiome of the placenta in women who had full-term pregnancies differed from that in women who had preterm births. But Dr. Aagaard said the researchers did not know if the difference contributed to the early birth, or was just characteristic of an earlier stage of pregnancy.

Dr. Martin J. Blaser, director of the human microbiome program at NYU Langone Medical Center, and the author of a recently published book, “Missing Microbes,” said that Dr. Aagaard’s study was important, but preliminary, and that it did not provide information that could be used in treating pregnant women.

“I’m intrigued by the findings about the mouth and also the relationship with preterm labor, which is a really important clinical question,” Dr. Blaser said. “Will this be a productive lead, or will it fizzle out? Time will tell us.”

He said that pregnant women were often given antibiotics, “for all kinds of reasons, many justified, but there’s a slippery slope.” Assuming that the placenta was sterile anyway, he said, doctors thought antibiotics would not affect the fetus. But if the placenta is not sterile, and is instead a portal for bacteria from the mother, he asked, “What are the antibiotics doing?”

Modern Medicine May Not Be Doing Your Microbiome Any Favors: NPR

According to Dr. Martin Blaser, the overuse of antibiotics has contributed to killing off strains of bacteria that typically live in the gut.

According to Dr. Martin Blaser, the overuse of antibiotics has contributed to killing off strains of bacteria that typically live in the gut.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There are lots of theories about why food allergies, asthma, celiac disease and intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease have been on the rise. Dr. Martin Blaser speculates that it may be connected to the overuse of antibiotics, which has resulted in killing off strains of bacteria that typically live in the gut.

Blaser is an expert on the human microbiome, which is the collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes that live in and on the body. In fact, up to 90 percent of all the cells in the human body aren’t human at all — they’re micro-organisms.

Blaser is the director of NYU’s Human Microbiome Program and a former chairman of medicine there. His new book is called Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues.

Missing Microbes
Missing Microbes

How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues

by Martin Blaser

He tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that with the overuse of antibiotics, as well as some other now-common practices like cesarean sections, we’ve entered a danger zone — a no man’s land between the world of our ancient microbiome and an uncharted modern world.

Interview Highlights

On why he thinks the number of diseases has risen

Since World War II, we’ve seen big rises in a number of diseases: asthma, allergies, food allergies, wheat allergy, juvenile diabetes, obesity. … These are all diseases that have gone up dramatically in the last 50 or 70 years. One of the questions is: Why are they going up? Are they going up for 10 different reasons, or perhaps there is one reason that is fueling all of them.

My theory is that the one reason is the changing microbiome; that we evolved a certain stable situation with our microbiome and with the modern advances of modern life, including modern medical practices, we have been disrupting the microbiome. And there’s evidence for that, especially early in life, and it’s changing how our children develop.

On the potential link between antibiotics and obesity

We have experiments in mice where, since we’re very interested in obesity, if we put mice on a high-fat diet, they gain weight; they get fat. If we put them on antibiotics early in life, they also get fat. If we put [them] on both together, they get very fat. … It’s clear that the effects of the antibiotics potentiate the effects of the high-fat diet. We’re not letting [the] high-fat diet off the hook, we’re saying that there’s another factor there. …

There’s a choreography; there’s a normal developmental cycle of the microbiome from birth over the first few years of life, especially the first three years, [that] appear[s] to be the most important. And that’s how nature has, how we have, evolved together so that we can maximize health and create a new generation, which is nature’s great purpose. And because of modern practices, we have disrupted that. And then the question is: Does that have consequence[s]? Our studies in mice show that it does have consequences. We’ve done epidemiologic studies in people that show that some of these modern practices are increasing the risk of obesity as well.

On how the birth process informs a baby’s microbiome

As far as we know, when the baby is inside the womb it is apparently sterile. … The big moment of truth is when the membranes rupture, the water breaks, and the baby starts coming out. And that’s where they first get exposed to the bacteria of the world, and the first bacteria they’re exposed to is their mother’s bacteria in the birth canal. So as labor proceeds, the babies are in contact with the microbes lining their mother’s vagina and, as they’re going out, they’re covered by these bacteria. They swallow the bacteria; it’s on their skin. …

That’s their initial exposure to the world of bacteria. That’s how mammals have been doing it for the last 150 million years, whether they’re dolphins or elephants or humans. … And we know a little about what those bacteria are. The most common bacteria are lactobacillus and there’s evidence that over the course of pregnancy the microbiome in the vagina changes, just as many other parts of the body are changing. The microbiome is changing in its composition in terms of maximizing lactobacilli, and these are bacteria that eat lactose, which is the main component of milk. So the baby’s mouth is filled with lactobacilli. The first thing that happens is they go up against their mom’s breast and they inoculate the nipple with lactobacilli and now milk and lactobacilli go into the new baby and that’s the foundation for their microbiome and that’s how they start their life. …

You could project that if they didn’t acquire these organisms or they didn’t acquire them normally or at the normal time, then the foundations might be a little shaky.

On a study comparing the microbiomes of babies born via C-section and those born vaginally

Shortly after birth, they compared the microbiomes in the babies that came out. The babies that were born vaginally, their microbiome, not surprisingly, looked like the mom’s vagina everywhere in the body — in their GI tract, on their skin, in their mouth. But the babies born by C-section, their microbiome looked like skin and it didn’t even necessarily look like the mom’s skin, maybe it was somebody else in the operating room. So it’s clear that the microbiome is different immediately depending on the kind of birth.

There have been more and more epidemiologic studies asking the question, really for the first time: Are there long-term health consequences of being born by C-section?


On how the microbiome can determine a person’s immunity and allergies

I’m concerned that the microbiome is part of our whole developmental process and if we disrupt it early, there are potentially consequences. …

What I can tell you is that our immune system is quite complex. There are many kinds of immune cells. There are cells that strongly recognize foreign substances, there are ones that try to damp [the immune system] and down-regulate it. There’s what we call innate immunity, which is the immunity we’re all born with, and then there’s adaptive immunity — the immunity that develops when we experience different kinds of exposures. So it’s very complex.

It’s developing early in life. That’s what sets, in essence, [the] immunological tone that will determine how allergic a person is, or how stoical a person is in an immunologic sense.

On probiotics

There are many different probiotics. If you go to the grocery store, the health food store, the drugstore, there are shelves and shelves full of probiotics [with] different names, different compositions. I think I can say three things: The first is that they’re almost completely unregulated; second is that they seem to be generally safe; and third is that they’re mostly untested. …

Right now, it’s the Wild West. I’m actually a big believer in probiotics; I think that’s going to be part of the future of medicine, that we’re going to understand the science of the microbiome well enough so that we can look at a sample from a child and say this child is lacking such-and-such an organism and now we’re going to take it off the shelf and we’re going to give it back to that child. … Just as today the kids are lining up for the vaccines, in the future, maybe the kids are going to be drinking certain organisms so that we can replace the ones that they’ve lost.

Sorting Out the Risks of Fish – NYTimes.com

Sorting Out the Risks of Fish


Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Fish is often called “brain food.” It’s an excellent source of lean protein, rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and iodine, and pregnant women are encouraged to eat it. There’s just one, ah, catch: Fish also may have mercury, which can harm the developing brain.

Two advocacy organizations sued the Food and Drug Administration last week, demanding that the agency require canned and packaged fish to carry labels informing consumers of the mercury content, and that federal officials force grocery stores and fish markets to display information if they sell fish high in mercury.

The F.D.A. long ago put out information about mercury in seafood, but the groups say it should be at consumers’ fingertips when they’re shopping for dinner.

“People shouldn’t have to do detective work to get this information,” said Michael Bender, executive director of the Mercury Policy Project, one of the groups. Agency officials said they could not comment because of the continuing litigation.

But will labels on a can of tuna do more harm than good — scaring people away from eating fish altogether?

That’s the concern of fishing industry representatives, who note that consumption of fish and seafood dropped the last time the F.D.A. issued warnings about mercury. They argue that the benefits of eating fish are much greater than the possible harmful effects of mercury.

“When environmental activists suggest that consumers not eat a healthy protein like seafood, they’re doing more harm than good,” said Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institutes, a nonprofit organization backed by the fishing and seafood industry. “The benefits outweigh the risks.”

Many health experts are also cautious about the way they word their advice on the matter because they don’t want Americans to forgo the benefits of fish and seafood in favor of, say, bacon cheeseburgers.

Worries over mercury in seafood stretch back decades, confounding consumers who are told that fish and seafood are healthy, especially for the developing fetus, but hazardous in great amounts. New research has helped tease out the benefits and the harms.

Edward Groth III, an independent food safety consultant who prepared a report on the effects of mercury on fetal brain development for the Mercury Pilot Project, agreed that women of childbearing age shouldn’t just quit eating fish.

“If women are eating less fish because they’re confused, and there’s some evidence that’s the case, then we’re not getting the result we want,” he said. “The secret is to get women to eat more low-mercury fish.”

The debate has taken on added urgency because of new studies suggesting that mercury may cause subtle adverse effects at levels lower than those now considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, even as they reaffirm the cognitive benefits to children whose mothers ate fish while pregnant.

Dr. Emily Oken and her colleagues at Harvard looked at the association between mothers’ fish intake and their infants’ cognitive scores at six months. The researchers found that the babies’ performance on visual recognition memory tests increased a significant four points with each additional weekly serving of fish that the mother ate while pregnant.

But the researchers also measured mercury levels in the mothers’ hair, and found that infants whose mothers had very high levels of mercury scored lower than the others, for a drop of 7.5 points for every one part per million increase in mercury.

The bottom line: The babies who scored highest were those whose mothers were among the top fish and seafood consumers, eating it at least twice a week, but who also had lower mercury levels.

via Sorting Out the Risks of Fish – NYTimes.com.

Can Mom’s Pregnancy Diet Rewire Baby’s Brain For Obesity? : The Salt : NPR

Moms-to-be are often reminded that they\’re eating for two. It\’s tempting to take this as an excuse to go for that extra scoop of the ice cream. (Believe me, I\’ve been there.)

But a solid body of research suggests that expectant mothers should be walking away with the opposite message: Pregnancy should be a time to double-down on healthful eating if you want to avoid setting up your unborn child for a lifetime of wrestling with obesity.

Now, research published this week offers tantalizing clues from mice of one way that a poor maternal diet may be laying the groundwork for obesity: by rewiring a part of the brain that\’s critical to regulating appetite. And these changes appear to happen in the third trimester of pregnancy, suggest the findings, which appear in the journal Cell.

First, it\’s crucial to stress that we\’re talking about mouse moms here, not human ones. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research in Germany used them to find out how maternal diet influenced brain development in offspring.

So they played around with feeding mouse mothers a high-fat diet before and during pregnancy and lactation. Pups born to obese mothers \”had different metabolic profiles than those of pups from mothers who were on a normal diet,\” explains study co-author Tamas Horvath, a professor of neurobiology and obstetrics at Yale.

Specifically, he says, the pups whose mothers ate a high-fat diet while they were in utero had impaired connections in brain neurons that regulate glucose and help control when they\’re hungry and full and how fat gets broken down.

That wasn\’t entirely unexpected, since plenty of studies in animals and humans have established that obese mothers beget obese children.

What really surprised the researchers, says Horvath, is that these neural changes also showed up in the offspring of mice who weren\’t obese but were fed the high-fat diet only during lactation. This period of brain development in mice corresponds to the third trimester of pregnancy in humans.

This suggests that even normal-weight moms-to-be need to watch their diet if they want to avoid setting the stage for obesity in their kids, he says. But it also suggests that researchers should look more closely at late pregnancy as a period when it might not be too late to intervene in a mom\’s diet to help break the cycle of obesity.

\”This study is another important piece to the puzzle that early-life influences can have long-lasting consequences to the offspring,\” says Dr. David Ludwig, a Harvard researcher who studies obesity in children.

He warns, though, that we should be careful in how far we extrapolate the findings to humans. After all, he notes, \”humans and rodents diverged in evolution 60 million years ago.\”

For one thing, Ludwig says, a high-fat diet for rodents isn\’t the same as one for humans, so we can\’t apply the findings directly to human moms. But that said, the general principle that nutrition in the womb and during early life is key to long-term health risks like obesity still applies, says Ludwig, who directs the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children\’s Hospital. It\’s not simply genetics or home environment that explains a family\’s tendency toward obesity, he says.

Last October, Ludwig and his colleagues published a study of more than 40,000 mothers and their more than 90,000 children. To factor out the role of genes and environment, the researchers looked only at siblings, comparing how much weight a mother gained in different pregnancies and how that related to her children\’s weight years later. Maternal weight gain, he notes, is a good proxy for the quality of diet during pregnancy.

They found that kids born to moms who put on too much weight — which they defined as 40 pounds or more — during pregnancy had an increased risk of becoming obese even more than 10 years down the road.

The takeaway message for expectant mothers, he says, is that, regardless of your genes, what you eat during those 40 weeks of pregnancy really does matter:

\”Genes, at this point, are not modifiable, whereas diet and pregnancy weight gain are.\”

via Can Mom’s Pregnancy Diet Rewire Baby’s Brain For Obesity? : The Salt : NPR.

Study: Eating Nuts in Pregnancy May Lower Child’s Allergy Risk – WSJ.com

Study: Eating Nuts in Pregnancy May Lower a Child\’s Allergy Risk

A Delay in Introducing Allergenic Foods Doesn\’t Prevent Allergies


Pregnant women who eat more peanuts and tree nuts during pregnancy might be less likely to bear nut-allergic children, a new study suggests.

Pregnant women who eat more peanuts and tree nuts during pregnancy might be less likely to bear nut-allergic children, a new study suggests. Lindsay Gellman reports on Lunch Break.

The research, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, supports the current consensus among medical professionals that delaying the introduction of nuts, milk, fish, shellfish, eggs and other highly allergenic foods in young children doesn\’t prevent the development of food allergies, said Michael C. Young, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and a senior author of the study.

The more nuts a mother ate during pregnancy, or a year before or after, the lower her child\’s nut-allergy risk. Getty Images

The findings inversely link a pregnant mother\’s consumption of peanuts or tree nuts with the onset of nut allergies in her child. The more nuts the mother ate while pregnant, or within a year before or after pregnancy, the lower the risk that the child would go on to develop nut allergies, Dr. Young said. The study doesn\’t demonstrate a causal relationship between a pregnant mother\’s diet and the onset of nut allergies in her offspring, he said.

The researchers stopped short of advising pregnant women to eat more nuts. Further, interventional studies—in which researchers would separate participating pregnant women into groups and prescribe their diets, rather than simply track their consumption—are required before they can make such a recommendation.

Researchers led by A. Lindsay Frazier of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children\’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in Boston, analyzed data from 8,205 children born between Jan. 1, 1990 and Dec. 31, 1994 to mothers who had reported their diets at or around the time of pregnancy. Of the children they tracked, 140 had developed a peanut or tree nut allergy by 2009. All self-reported cases of physician-diagnosed nut allergies were reviewed independently by two pediatricians, according to the study.

The prevalence of childhood peanut allergy in the U.S. has become an \”epidemic\” in recent years, Dr. Young said. The rate of 1.4% in 2010 is more than triple the rate of 0.4% in 1997, according to the study. Peanut and tree nut allergies tend to overlap, and such allergies typically become evident with a child\’s first known exposure to peanuts or tree nuts, the study said. It defines tree nuts as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias and Brazil nuts.

Until recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics had recommended that young children avoid eating peanuts and tree nuts until at least age 3 and cautioned pregnant or nursing women against eating peanuts. In 2008, AAP did away with those guidelines after further studies showed little support for them. The new data support the AAP\’s move to rescind the recommendation, Dr. Young said. The research \”supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy,\” the study said.

via Study: Eating Nuts in Pregnancy May Lower Child’s Allergy Risk – WSJ.com.

Mother’s Exercise May Boost Baby’s Brain – NYTimes


Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.

If a woman is physically active during pregnancy, she may boost the development of her unborn child’s brain, according to a heart-tugging new study of expectant mothers and their newborns. The findings bolster a growing scientific consensus that the benefits of exercise can begin to accumulate even before someone is born.

It has long been suspected that a mother-to-be’s activity — or lack of it — affects her unborn offspring, which is not surprising, given how their physiologies intertwine. Past studies have shown, for example, that a baby’s heart rate typically rises in unison with his or her exercising mother’s, as if the child were also working out. As a result, scientists believe, babies born to active mothers tend to have more robust cardiovascular systems from an early age than babies born to mothers who are more sedentary.

Whether gestational exercise similarly shapes an unborn child’s developing brain has been harder to quantify, although recent studies have been suggestive. An experiment presented this month at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in San Diego, for instance, reported that pregnant rats allowed to run on wheels throughout their pregnancies birthed pups that performed more dexterously in early childhood on a tricky memory test — having to identify unfamiliar objects in a familiar environment — than pups born to sedentary moms. These clever rats retained their cognitive advantage into adulthood (meaning, for rats, weeks later).

But this and similar experiments have involved animals, rather than people. Many of these studies also began comparing the creatures’ cognitive abilities when they were old enough to move about and respond to their world, by which time they potentially might have been shaped as much by their environment as by their time in the womb.

So to minimize these concerns, researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada recently recruited a group of local women who were in their first trimester of pregnancy. At that point, the women were almost identical in terms of lifestyle. All were healthy, young adults. None were athletes. Few had exercised regularly in the past, and none had exercised more than a day or two per week in the past year.

Then the women were randomized either to begin an exercise program, commencing in their second trimester, or to remain sedentary. The women in the exercise group were asked to work out for at least 20 minutes, three times a week, at a moderate intensity, equivalent to about a six or so on a scale of exertion from one to 10. Most of the women walked or jogged.

Every month, for the remainder of each woman’s pregnancy, she would visit the university’s exercise lab, so researchers could monitor her fitness. All of the volunteers, including those in the nonexercise group, also maintained daily activity logs.

After about six months and following the dictates of nature, the women gave birth. All, thankfully, had healthy boys or girls — which the scientists gently requested that the mothers almost immediately bring in for testing.

A baby who participated in the study.Univesite de MontrealA baby who participated in the study.

Within 12 days of birth, in fact, each of the newborns accompanied his or her mother to the lab. There, each baby was fitted with an adorable little cap containing electrodes that monitor electrical activity in the brain, settled in his or her mother’s lap, and soothed to sleep. Researchers then started a sound loop featuring a variety of low, soft sounds that recurred frequently, interspersed occasionally with more jarring, unfamiliar noises, while the baby’s brain activity was recorded.

“We know that baby’s brains respond to these kinds of sounds with a spike” in certain types of brain activity, said Elise Labonte-LeMoyne, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Montreal, who led the study and also presented her findings at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. This spike is most pronounced in immature brains, she continued, and diminishes as a newborn’s brain develops and begins processing information more efficiently. “It usually disappears altogether by the time a baby is 4 months old,” she said,

In this case, the relevant brainwave activity soared in response to the novel sounds among the children born to mothers who had remained sedentary during pregnancy. But it was noticeably blunted in the babies whose mothers had exercised. In essence, “their brains were more mature,” Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne said.

How gestational exercise can remodel an unborn child’s brain is not clear, Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne admits, since, unlike circulatory systems, a mother’s brain is not hardwired directly to that of her child. “But we suspect that when mom exercises, she generates a variety of chemicals,” including many related to brain health, which can move into her bloodstream and eventually mingle with the blood of her baby.

But that possibility is only theoretical for now. It is also unclear whether the precocious brain development seen in newborns with active mothers will linger into their later lives. Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne and her colleagues plan to retest the children on various cognitive tests once they are a year old.

But for now, the lesson is clear. “If a woman can be physically active during her pregnancy, she may give her unborn child an advantage, in terms of brain development,” Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne said. And the commitment required can be slight. “We were surprised,” she said, “by how much of an effect we saw” from barely an hour of exercise per week.

Mom’s Pregnancy Weight Gain Tied to Kid’s Obesity

Mom’s Pregnancy Weight Gain Tied to Kid’s Obesity

Published: Oct 1, 2013 | Updated: Oct 2, 2013Download Complimentary Source PDF

By Cole Petrochko, Staff Writer, MedPage Today

Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner

Increases in a mother’s weight during pregnancy were associated with elevated BMI and odds of overweight and obesity in her child through age 12.

Note that birth order had no significant effect on maternal weight gain during pregnancy, child’s birth weight, BMI at last measurement, or age of BMI measurement.

Increases in a mother’s weight during pregnancy were associated with elevated body mass index (BMI) and odds of overweight and obesity in her child through age 12, researchers found.

Among a cohort of women who had two or more pregnancies, each kg of weight gained during pregnancy was significantly associated with a 0.0220 increase in the child’s BMI (95% CI 0.0134-0.0306, P<0.0001) at around 12 years, according to David Ludwig, MD, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues.

Additionally, every kg gained during pregnancy was associated with significant increased odds of the child being overweight or obesity (odds ratio 1.007, 95% CI 1.003-1.012, P=0.0008), they wrote online in the October 1 issue ofPLoS Medicine.

Mothers’ weight and weight gain during pregnancy have been tied to a number of health effects in their children. Obesity in pregnant mothers has been associated with earlier death and risk for hospital admission due to cardiac events in the child.

Rapid weight gain in pregnant mothers has been tied to elevated risks for gestational diabetes.

The authors analyzed the relationship between maternal weight gain during pregnancy with the child’s weight at an average age of 11.9 in a population-based cohort of 42,133 Arkansas women and 91,045 of their children. The women had more than one singleton pregnancy.

Birth data included pregnancy weight gain, birth weight of the baby, diabetes during pregnancy, week of gestation at delivery, maternal age, maternal education, maternal marital status, maternal smoking, child sex, child parity, and year of birth, which were collected through the Vital Statistics Natality records.

Weight gain was determined by subtracting reported prepregnancy weight from weight at delivery.

Children’s weight and height at a mean 11.9 years were recorded through school records and were used to calculate BMI.

Data were collected on all live births in Arkansas from January 1989 to December 2005, and children were followed-up with from August 2003 to June 2011.

At birth, mothers gained a mean 13.9 kg from their prepregnancy weight. Their mean age was 24.6 and 17.9% smoked.

Children had a mean birth weight of 3,416.5 g, a mean gestation of 39.3 weeks, and 39.4% were overweight or obese at the time of their last BMI measurement.

Birth order had no significant effect on maternal weight gain during pregnancy, child’s birth weight, BMI at last measurement, or age of BMI measurement.

Although each kg the mother gained during pregnancy was associated with increases in childhood BMI and in odds of overweight or obesity, the associations with BMI were “modestly attenuated” after adjustment for birth weight by roughly 35%. After adjustment, each kg of maternal weight gained during pregnancy was associated with a childhood BMI increase of 0.0143 kg/m2 (95% CI 0.0057-0.0229, P=0.0007).

The authors concluded that “because childhood body weight predicts adult body weight, our study suggests that overnutrition in pregnancy may program the fetus for an increased lifetime risk for obesity, though the magnitude of this effect may be small.”

“However, because inadequate weight gain during pregnancy can also adversely affect the developing fetus, it will be essential for women to receive clear information about what constitutes optimal weight gain during pregnancy,” they added.

They cautioned that the study was limited by missing data for prepregnancy BMI, potential errors in reporting pregnancy weight gain, and lack of paternal data.

Ludwig and colleagues also could not account for biological or behavioral factors that may affect their findings, such as diet, physical activity, and other maternal characteristics.

via Mom’s Pregnancy Weight Gain Tied to Kid’s Obesity.

Drinking Milk in Pregnancy May Lead to Taller Children – NYTimes.com


A new study suggests that the amount of milk a woman drinks during pregnancy may affect the adult height of her offspring.

Researchers followed 685 Danish mother-child pairs in a prospective study over 20 years, tracking milk consumption during pregnancy and the height of the offspring at birth and age 20. The study was published online Sept. 4 in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

After adjusting for the mother’s height, age, body mass index and many other factors, they found that mothers who drank more than five ounces of milk a day — almost all drank low-fat milk — had bigger babies, on average, than those who drank less. This, the authors write, confirms the results of previous studies.

By age 20, children with mothers who drank more than five ounces of milk a day during pregnancy were, on average, almost a half-inch taller. They also had an average of 8 percent higher blood levels of IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor, which promotes bone growth. But these trends did not achieve statistical significance.

“There aren’t many prenatal dietary or environmental factors identified that explain growth in children,” said Thorhallur Halldorsson, a researcher at Center for Fetal Programming at the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen. “Milk drinking may be one. It does increase weight and length at birth, and there’s a possibility that this actually tracks into adult life.”

via Drinking Milk in Pregnancy May Lead to Taller Children – NYTimes.com.

Choline supplementation during pregnancy presents a new approach to schizophrenia prevention

Choline Supplementation During Pregnancy Presents a New Approach to Schizophrenia Prevention

Jan. 15, 2013 — Choline, an essential nutrient similar to the B vitamin and found in foods such as liver, muscle meats, fish, nuts and eggs, when given as a dietary supplement in the last two trimesters of pregnancy and in early infancy, is showing a lower rate of physiological schizophrenic risk factors in infants 33 days old. The study breaks new ground both in its potentially therapeutic findings and in its strategy to target markers of schizophrenia long before the illness itself actually appears. Choline is also being studied for potential benefits in liver disease, including chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, depression, memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and certain types of seizures.

Robert Freedman, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine and one of the study’s authors and Editor of The American Journal of Psychiatry, points out, “Genes associated with schizophrenia are common, so prevention has to be applied to the entire population, and it has to be safe. Basic research indicates that choline supplementation during pregnancy facilitates cognitive functioning in offspring. Our finding that it ameliorates some of the pathophysiology associated with risk for schizophrenia now requires longer-term follow-up to assess whether it decreases risk for the later development of illness as well.”

Normally, the brain responds fully to an initial clicking sound but inhibits its response to a second click that follows immediately. In schizophrenia patients, deficient inhibition is common and is related to poor sensory filtering and familial transmission of schizophrenia risk. Since schizophrenia does not usually appear until adolescence, this trait — measurable in infancy — was chosen to represent the illness.

Half the healthy pregnant women in this study took 3,600 milligrams of phosphatidylcholine each morning and 2,700 milligrams each evening; the other half took placebo. After delivery, their infants received 100 milligrams of phosphatidylcholine per day or placebo. Eighty-six percent of infants exposed to pre- and postnatal choline supplementation, compared to 43% of unexposed infants, inhibited the response to repeated sounds, as measured with EEG sensors placed on the baby’s head during sleep.

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via Choline supplementation during pregnancy presents a new approach to schizophrenia prevention.