Pregnancy Diet and Stem Cells

Does your Diet have an Effect on your Baby’s Stem Cells?

The answer to the above question will surprise you – and make you more aware of what you consume while you are pregnant.

From time immemorial, expectant mothers have been plied with diet advice on all sides. ‘Eat a lot of ghee’, one says, while another tells you to cut down on fats and sugar. Someone else comes up with a diet chart with large portions – ‘After all, you are eating for two people now!’ – while still somebody else advises eating everything and then exercising rigorously.

So whom should you believe? The answer is simple: believe what your doctor tells you. Based on your age, your lifestyle and your overall health, your doctor will draw up the ideal diet chart for you comprising all the essential food groups. Following the doctor’s advice to the letter will ensure that your unborn baby receives the nutrition it needs to grow well as it comes to term. It will also ensure that your baby will be healthy and with minimal physiological problems.

In many ways, you really are what you eat. Bearing in mind that your baby receives all its nutrition from you, you must ensure that your diet is healthy and nutritious at all times. Some women crave high-sugar, high-salt, oily treats during their pregnancy. While giving in to a craving is permissible occasionally, a high-fat diet can actually cause more harm to your baby’s growth. Science reveals that a high-fat diet in an expectant mother can interfere in the formation of the stem cell system in the foetus – in turn, this compromises the baby’s immune and blood systems for life.[1]

This finding was borne out by a study conducted by physicians at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, which found that ‘over nutrition’ and obesity in the mother could impact the foetal liver and its formation – thus impacting the quality of stem cells produced therein. Researchers have been able to prove a diminishing in size and function of the foetal liver owing to a high-fat diet in the pre-natal stage. Another study on the subjects explains that the liver is the primary hematopoietic organ in the foetus, and it is from the foetal liver than hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) originate. Thus, a high fat diet and obesity in the mother can have a direct effect on the HSC pool.[2]

It is best to stick to a diet rich in vitamins, calcium, protein, fibre and minerals in the pre-natal stage. A nutritionist or your consulting doctor can help you draw up a daily diet plan that benefits both you and the baby. Interspersing a healthy diet with lots of water and fresh fruit juices also helps flush out the system and alleviates the build-up of toxins in the body.

Apart from a healthy diet, expectant mothers must also keep a check on their weight with light exercise allowed by the doctor. It does not do to allow one’s weight to grow unabated during pregnancy through wrong diet and lack of exercise – bear in mind that every action on the mother’s part has a direct effect on the baby’s health.

[1] http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/news_events/news/2014/12-23-high-fat-diet-obesity.cfm

[2] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212877814001835

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