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Pregnant? Another Reason To Avoid Fructose

Pregnant women whose diet is high in fructose could be setting their babies up for high blood pressure and obesity later in life. This finding comes from a study in mice by researchers at the University of Texas, Medical Branch, Galveston. They provided pregnant mice a solution of either fructose or water as their only drink from their first day of pregnancy through delivery. All of the baby mice were given standard mouse meals and their health was evaluated when they were one year old. The researchers found that both the male and female mice whose mothers drank the fructose solution had higher peak glucose levels compared to the offspring of the mother mice who drank only water during pregnancy. The female mice born to moms in the fructose group were heavier, had more abdominal fat and more fat in their livers than the females whose mothers drank water. These differences weren’t observed in the males from the fructose group. While this study was done in mice, lead researcher Antonio Saad, M.D. commented that the results show that consuming a high fructose diet during pregnancy puts offspring at risk for obesity and the many health problems it can cause.

My take? These are very interesting findings, even if conducted in animals. It wouldn’t be ethical or desirable to perform the same study with pregnant women to see what effects a high fructose diet might have on the health of their children. However, we already know that the body doesn’t utilize fructose well, and I am especially concerned about the potentially disruptive effects of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the main sweetener used in beverages and in a wide variety of processed foods. Some evidence suggests fructose may disturb liver function. It also may elevate triglycerides in men, increasing the risk of heart disease. The vulnerability of a developing child adds another layer of concern. I don’t think fructose or high fructose corn syrup is good for anyone, pregnant or not. 

Pregnancy: Eating for Two Not a Good Idea

Gaining some weight during pregnancy is healthy, but a new study shows that one-third of new mothers whose weight was normal before pregnancy were overweight or obese a year after childbirth. The investigators from the University of Chicago drew on data from 774 low-income women. The participants were interviewed three times in the year following childbirth, and the women's height and weight were measured at six and 12 months after delivery. The researchers reported that their study participants gained an average of 32 pounds during pregnancy and that about 75 percent of the women remained heavier a year after their babies were born than they were before pregnancy. When interviewed a year after their babies were born, 47 percent of the women still weighed at least 10 pounds more than they did pre-pregnancy. Experts note that breastfeeding and moderate exercise can help with weight loss after pregnancy. Study leader Loraine K. Endres, M.D., made the point that "eating for two" should not be interpreted to mean doubling caloric intake. She said that pregnant women should consume only 300 to 400 extra calories per day as long as they're expecting only one baby.

Having Baby “Late” in Life May Signal Longevity

Here’s some good news for women who have had babies after the age of 33: odds are they’ll live longer than women whose last child was born before they reached 30. The age at last childbirth can indicate the rate of biological aging, according to a study of families with members who lived exceptionally long lives. “The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body,” researcher Thomas Perls, M.D., M.P.H. explained in a press release. The genetic variants that allow women to have babies naturally after age 33 might also be responsible for exceptionally long life spans, the study suggested. The findings came from an analysis of data from the Long Life Family Study (LLFS)—a biopsychosocial and genetic study of 551 families with multiple members who attained exceptionally old ages. The researchers determined the ages at which 462 women had their last child, and correlated that age with their longevity. They found that women who had their last child after the age of 33 years had twice the odds of living to 95 years or older compared with women who had their last child by age 29. Earlier data from this study showed that women who gave birth naturally after age 40 were four times more likely to live to 100 than women who had their last child earlier in life.

Sources:
Thomas T. Perls et al, “Extended maternal age at birth of last child and women's longevity in the Long Life Family Study.” Menopause, The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, June 23, 2014

Female Fertility: The Stress Factor

When pregnancy just isn’t happening, the problem could be a stressed-out prospective mother. A new study from Ohio State found that an enzyme that signals stress shows up more often in the saliva of women who fail to conceive after 12 months of trying than in women who have less trouble getting pregnant. The researchers followed 500 American women age 18 to 40 who had no known fertility problems when they began trying to conceive. The women were followed for 12 months or until they became pregnant. Researchers took saliva samples when the study began and again in the morning after the first day of the women’s first menstrual period after joining the study. Those who had higher levels of alpha-amylase were 29 percent less likely to conceive each month and twice as likely not to conceive after trying for a year. An earlier study in the U.K. concluded with the same results. The Ohio State researchers noted that stress is not the only or the most important impediment to pregnancy, but suggested that women who are having trouble getting pregnant consider stress-management techniques including yoga, meditation and mindfulness.

Sources:
C.D. Lynch et al, “Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study,” Human Reproduction, doi: 10.1093/humrep/deu032

Exercise for Your Baby’s Brain

Being active during pregnancy may speed development of your baby’s brainBeing active during pregnancy may speed development of your baby’s brain. A study from Canada showed that jogging, swimming or cycling for as little as 20 minutes three times a week starting at the beginning of the second trimester made a measurable difference in the activity of the babies’ brains, according to researchers from the University of Montreal. The investigators divided 60 women into exercise and non-exercise groups. To check the effect of the exercise on the infants’ brains, the researchers measured the babies’ brain activity while they slept on their mothers’ laps when they were eight to 12 days old. The EEGs used for the test showed that the babies of the active mothers had a “more mature cerebral activation,” which suggests that their brains developed more rapidly than the offspring of women who didn’t exercise. This was the first study of the effect of exercise on human brain development. Earlier research has shown that exercise during pregnancy can ease post-partum recovery, make pregnancy more comfortable and reduce the risk of obesity in the children. The results of the brain study were presented on November 10, 2013 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Source:
Press release, “Exercise during pregnancy gives newborn brain development a head start,” University of Montreal,” University of Montreal, accessed November 16, 2013, http://www.nouvelles.umontreal.ca/udem-news/news/20131111-exercise-during-pregnancy-gives-newborn-brain-development-a-head-start.html

How Much Omega-3s for Pregnant Women? (Video)

Given that omega-3 fatty acids protect both babies and mothers during pregnancy – babies from impaired brain development, and mothers from depression – it’s imperative that pregnant women ingest adequate amounts of these essential fats.

Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, lead clinical investigator at the National Institutes of Public Health and internationally recognized authority on the link between essential fatty acids and depression, explains precisely how much omega-3s pregnant women need in their diet and where to get them.