Can You Prevent Your Child From Becoming Obese?
By Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, PhD, RD
Look around today at our youth: Each year they seem to get more and more overweight, and dare it be said, obese.
Yes, many North American children are suffering the same body weight issues that adults are - and this doesn’t set a pretty picture for their future.
You think it’s hard to lose weight once mid-life sets in? Well, think about how hard it is to reach a healthy body weight if you start out as an obese toddler.
It’s time to put a stop to this widespread obesity crisis so that our medical costs and prescription bills can be minimized; already they’re an incredible expense. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
We first have to start with our children. If they’re born into a body predisposed to obesity, then they have little hope for a healthy body weight in their future.
Thankfully, scientists are investigating this issue and have found an important clue to stop this road to lifelong body weight issues.
Researchers from Harvard Medical school investigated how a pregnant woman’s diet influenced the weight status of her child after 3 years.
What they found was very interesting:
In over 1000 women, those who ate a higher amount of marine-based omega-3 fatty acids when they were pregnant, coupled with higher amounts of these essential fats in the umbilical cord blood when their babies were born, gave birth to children that were less likely to be obese at 3 years of age.
Even if women ate fish while pregnant, they did not always take in the recommended 200 mg/day of omega-3 DHA known to benefit their babies if the fish eaten were low in omega-3 fats.
The highest omega-3 fat fish in our diets are salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines, while tuna and white fish are not. Specialty eggs also contain high amounts of DHA today, in addition to other DHA-rich functional foods.
Only 3% of pregnant women surveyed actually took in the recommended amount of omega-3s while pregnant, especially during the last month which is when large amounts of DHA are transferred from the mother to the infant to support brain development and prevent obesity.
Overall, the odds for a toddler to become obese as a toddler were 32% lower when they were exposed to a high amount of omega-3 fats, especially DHA, when they were in utero.
So, to all the future parents out there: Check with your doctor about consuming at least 200 mg of DHA omega-3 fats while you are pregnant in order to prevent your child from struggling with excess unhealthy body fat when they are older. It just might help both of you to live long, happy, disease-free lives.
Prenatal fatty acid status and child adiposity at age 3 y: results from a US pregnancy cohort.
Donahue SM, Rifas-Shiman SL, Gold DR, Jouni ZE, Gillman MW, Oken E.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Apr;93(4):780-8. Epub 2011 Feb 10.
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