Good health really does start before you’re born

This week there have been a couple of things on the TV and radio worth catching if you are planning pregnancy. Both programmes talked about how what your mother eats when you are in the womb has a profound and lasting effect on your health for the whole of your life. On Wednesday afternoons at 4pm on R4 there is Dr Mark Porter talking about the importance of the first 1000 days of your life. Last week he covered pregnancy and basically de-bunked the myth that babies are parasites and take all they need from the mother. Actually there are specific windows of growth and development, especially in the first trimester when all the organs are being made when nutrition is of the utmost importance and if there just aren’t enough nutrients to go round the ‘most important’ organs get first choice, like the brain. So if  it happens that during the time that the kidneys are being made nutrients are in poor supply the kidneys may not be as efficiently made as they might. This will then mean that the adult grows up with a tendency to high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.

The second was Horizon on BBC2 on Monday at 9pm. This also looked at how obesity and fat storage is pre-programmed into babies in the womb,leading to diabetes, even if the mother is not obese and may be governed by inadequate micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals, rather than macro-nutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fat (and calories).
Both programmes used the example of the Dutch famine in WW2, where women whose early pregnancy occurred during this several months of almost starvation (400 calories a day on average). They found those adults who were just conceived then and saw that they had much higher levels of cardiovascualr disease, obesity, high cholesterol and Type II diabetes, and quite different patterns of health from their siblings who were lucky enough to be conceived at other times.
Oh, and finally (hurrah at last, as men do get ignored and often told that there’s nothing much they can contribute) in the First Thousand Days, they also stressed the importance of the male in this ‘pre-programming’ of your children’s health.

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