Shaping the Future

Dr. Greene’s take on shaping the future…

When you look at a playground full of nine-year olds, some will be skinny, some will be overweight, and most will be in between. About 25 percent of the differences that you see between kids may go all the way back to what their mothers ate during the second trimester, according to a groundbreaking April 2011 study. And about 75 percent of the differences depend on other things: inherited genes and childhood lifestyle choices – including babies’ first foods.

Could pregnancy diet make that big of a difference? Carefully controlled studies in animals (described in Feeding Baby Green) have convincingly shown that both pregnancy diet choices and infancy diet choices can switch on and off different genes (something called epigenetics) that result in changed metabolisms and different amounts of body fat – and a variety of other health problems. Mothers’ diets can act as a partial shield from the onslaught of junk food in childhood.

The current study looks at kids in the real world, where many other factors come into play. But the researchers found clear links between the mothers’ second trimester diets, which genes were turned on and off just after birth, and the amount of belly fat at age 9.

Today’s choices always help shape the future – all the more so during pregnancy and early childhood.

Godfrey KM, Sheppard A, Gluckman PD, Lillycrop KA, Burdge GC, McLean C, Rodford, Slater-Jefferies JL, Garratt E, Crozier SR, Emerald BS, Gale CR, Inskip HM, Cooper C, and Hanson MA. “Epigenetic Gene Promoter Methylation at Birth Is Associated with Child’s Later Adiposity.” Diabetes, published ahead of print April 6, 2011, doi:10.2337/db10-0979

Published on: April 20, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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