Diet be­fore con­cep­tion af­fects child’s health

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

PARIS — A child’s health can be com­pro­mised not only by a mother who smokes or drinks dur­ing preg­nancy, but by the obe­sity and poor diet of both par­ents well be­fore the act of pro­cre­ation, re­searchers said on Tues­day.

What a mother and fa­ther eat, and whether they are se­ri­ously over­weight, in other words, can have “pro­found im­pli­ca­tions for the growth, de­vel­op­ment and long-term health of their chil­dren be­fore con­cep­tion”, they warned in a trio of stud­ies.

The find­ings, re­ported in The Lancet, a lead­ing med­i­cal jour­nal, should heighten aware­ness of “pre­con­cep­tion risk fac­tors”, the re­searchers said.

“Ev­i­dence for pre­con­cep­tional ef­fect on life­time health is now so com­pelling that it calls for new guid­ance on parental prepa­ra­tion for preg­nancy, be­gin­ning be­fore con­cep­tion,” they con­cluded.

The stud­ies — com­bin­ing a re­view of ear­lier lit­er­a­ture and new re­search — showed that the life­style habits of fa­thers, not just moth­ers, can have a di­rect im­pact on the well-be­ing of off­spring.

“The pre­con­cep­tion pe­riod is a crit­i­cal time when parental health — in­clud­ing weight, me­tab­o­lism and diet — can in­flu­ence the risk of fu­ture chronic dis­eases in chil­dren,” said Judith Stephen­son, a pro­fes­sor and Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don and lead au­thor of the se­ries.

“While the cur­rent fo­cus on risk fac­tors such as smok­ing and ex­cess al­co­hol in­take is im­por­tant, we also need new drives to pre­pare nu­tri­tion­ally for preg­nancy in both par­ents.”

Obe­sity in ei­ther or both par­ents, for ex­am­ple, in­creases the chances of heart at­tacks, stroke, im­mune dis­ease and di­a­betes in off­spring.

Ma­ter­nal obe­sity is thought to en­hance lev­els of in­flam­ma­tion and hor­mones, which can di­rectly al­ter the de­vel­op­ment of the egg and em­bryo. This, in turn, boosts the odds of chronic dis­ease later in life.

In men, be­ing obese leads to de­fi­cien­cies in sperm as­so­ci­ated with many of the same con­di­tions.

Mal­nu­tri­tion in moth­ers can also lead to de­vel­op­men­tal prob­lems in their chil­dren, the re­view found.

Schools should pre­pare young adults — boys and girls — for fu­ture par­ent­hood, the stud­ies rec­om­mended, point­ing out that some 40 per­cent of preg­nan­cies world­wide are un­planned.

“Ef­forts to im­prove nu­tri­tion and health be­hav­ior at a pop­u­la­tion level are needed to sup­port in­di­vid­ual ef­forts among those plan­ning ahead of e preg­nancy,” the au­thors con­cluded.

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