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.
Image Credit: AND-ONE / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Pregnancy
All Videos for Pregnancy
Toxoplasmosis: A Manipulative Foodborne Brain Parasite
Nearly one quarter of Americans have already been infected with the brain parasite toxoplasma.
How Much Microplastic Is Found in Fish Fillets?
How many plastic particles per serving have been found in the fish muscle itself?
Microplastic Contamination & Seafood Safety
Can ingested plastic particles from fish get into our bloodstream?
Benefit of Dates for Colon Health
Seven dates a day for three weeks are put to the test in a randomized controlled trial.
Brain-Healthy Foods to Fight Aging
What is the best source of lutein, the primary carotenoid antioxidant in the brain?
Are Acid-Blocking Drugs Safe?
Do the benefits outweigh the risks for acid-blocker drugs (proton pump inhibitors like Nexium/Prilosec/Prevacid)? What about baking soda?
Best Food for Labor & Delivery
Shorten labor time by hours, with less induction and less postpartum bleeding, with a humble fruit.
Best Food for Late Pregnancy
Dates are put to the test in a randomized, controlled trial for cervical ripening.
The Role of the Gut Microbiome in Autism
What role do antibiotics play in the development and treatment of autism spectrum disorder?
How Much Lead Is in Organic Chicken Soup (Bone Broth)?
Lead from occupational exposures, shooting ranges, eggs and bone broth is reviewed.
Does Laptop Wi-Fi Lower Sperm Counts?
Should laptops not be on laps? What is the effect of WiFi exposure on sperm motility and DNA damage?
Do Cell Phones Lower Sperm Counts?
What is the effect of cell phone radiation on sperm motility and DNA damage?