It’s become commonplace for pregnant women to avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. When should they start eating healthier for the next generation?
Studies of accidental death victims aged 3 to 26 found fatty streaks—the first stage of atherosclerosis—present in nearly all American kids by the time they were 10 years old. These fatty streaks can turn into full-blown plaques by our 20s and 30s, and can start killing us off by the time we’re 40 or 50.
Atherosclerosis may start even before birth. Researchers found that the arteries of fetuses whose mothers had high LDL cholesterol levels were more likely to contain arterial lesions, suggesting atherosclerosis may not just start as a nutritional disease of childhood, but one during pregnancy.
Pregnancy and BBQ? Though lung cancer is attributed primarily to smoking, approximately a quarter of cases occur in people who’ve never smoked. Some might be due to secondhand smoke, but another contributing cause may be another potentially carcinogenic plume: fumes from frying. A study on pregnant women and barbecuing found that not only was the ingestion of grilled meat in the third trimester associated with smaller birth weights, mothers merely exposed to the fumes tended to give birth to babies with a birth-weight deficit.
And industrial pollutants? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most women’s bodies in the United States are contaminated with heavy metals, toxic solvents, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, fire retardants, chemicals from plastics, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and banned pesticides. In many cases, 99 to 100 percent of the women were found to have detectable levels of these pollutants in their bloodstreams. Pregnant women were found to harbor, on average, up to 50 different chemicals, and researchers found detectable DDT residues in 95 percent of umbilical cord samples from women who had recently given birth—and this is now decades after the pesticide was banned. Which foods seem to contribute the most heavy metals and other pollutants? The number-one source of arsenic was poultry among preschoolers and, for their parents, tuna. The top source for lead? Dairy. For mercury? Seafood.
If women want to clean up their diets before conception, results suggest that within a year of stopping fish consumption, we can detox nearly 99 percent of mercury. Unfortunately, other industrial pollutants in fish can take longer: The half-lives for certain dioxins, PCBs, and DDT by-products found in fish are as long as ten years.
I recommend pregnant and breastfeeding women on plant-based diets to follow the consensus guidelines to get about 200mg of preformed DHA from an uncontaminated source, like algae oil, which is probably the best combination for all women given the state of our world to minimize exposure to toxic pollutants such as dioxins, PCBs, and mercury.
The information on this page has been compiled from Dr. Greger’s research. Sources for each video listed can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab. References may also be found at the back of his books.
Image Credit: AND-ONE / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Pregnancy
All Videos for Pregnancy
Natural Dietary Remedy for Insomnia
Lactucin, the hypnotic component of lettuce, is put to the test in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of lettuce seeds.
Cancer-Causing NDMA in Medications (Zantac, Metformin) and Meat
Billion-dollar drugs pulled from the market for carcinogenic contamination less than that found in a single serving of grilled chicken.
Can Cholesterol Get Too Low?
Why might healthy lifestyle choices wipe out 90 percent of our risk for having a heart attack, whereas drugs may only reduce risk by 20 to 30 percent?
The Efficacy and Side Effects of Moringa Leaf Powder
Why don’t I recommend moringa?
Are Vegans at Risk for Iodine Deficiency?
Most plant-based milks are not fortified with iodine.
The Best Type of Vitamin B12: Cyanocobalamin or Methylcobalamin?
For prevention and treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency, cyanocobalamin in chewable, sublingual, or liquid forms (rather than in a multivitamin) is best under most circumstances.
The Optimal Vitamin B12 Dosage for Kids, Pregnancy, and Seniors
At age 50, everyone, regardless of diet should start supplementing with B12-fortified foods or supplements but over age 65 only high-dose daily supplements may suffice.
The Optimal Vitamin B12 Dosage for Adults
Why the current Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin B12 may be insufficient.
The Role of Epigenetics in the Obesity Epidemic
Amazingly, a baby born to an obese surrogate mother with a skinny biological mom may harbor a greater risk of becoming obese than a baby from a big biological mom born to a slim surrogate.
Stainless Steel or Cast Iron: Which Cookware Is Best? Is Teflon Safe?
What’s the best type of pots and pans to use?