It turns out that healthy eating can start paying dividends for children even before conception. A study led by doctors at Stanford University School of Medicine, along with others, found that women who eat a low fat, fiber-rich diet in the year before becoming pregnant had a significantly lower risk of certain birth defects.
The study showed that women who ate healthy diets, both during pregnancy and in the year before becoming pregnant, gave birth to fewer infants with two of the most common birth defects – neural tube defects (defects of the brain and spinal cord) and orofacial clefts (deformed nasal passages). There was also a lower incidence of spina bifida and cleft palate.
Prior studies have generally focused on the impact on birth defects of one nutrient at a time, or on how healthy eating generally affects infant characteristics like birth weight, growth patterns, etc. But this study finds a direct link between healthy eating and the chances of specific birth defects.
This is an important finding, since it means that by simply maintaining a lifestyle that includes healthy eating (something everyone should do), women can help ensure the health of their children. Limiting fat to 20-30% of total calories, and eating more fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates, is a healthy way to live anyway. It’s now even more important. Why not focus attention on healthy eating during the time before getting pregnant?
Most doctors are careful about monitoring a woman’s diet once she becomes pregnant, making sure they consume a diet rich in folic acid, iron, calcium, and various vitamins, while eliminating alcohol and tobacco, and minimizing caffeine among other things. But most people don’t think about their diets prior to getting pregnant.
This study indicates that a woman’s diet during the year before conception is important too.
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?