Much debate goes into what to do or not do during pregnancy. The more we learn about pregnancy and child development the more we know what the actual affects are of certain behavior prior to childbirth. This may or may not be reassuring, but it is thought provoking.
While some doctors caution heavily against exercise during pregnancy, a recent research report published in the FASEB Journal (Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) reported mice who carried a gene for Alzheimer’s disease exhibited fewer and smaller amyloid plaques in their brains when their mothers exercised regularly during pregnancy. These amyloid plaques are direclty associated with Alzheimer’s.
The same mice also had better development of their vascular network, less inflammation, and less oxidative stress. Oxidative stress, or an imbalance between the body’s production of an oxidative species and it’s ability to process it, can be linked to many neurodegenerative diseases, including both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
In short, mice whose mothers exercised regularly had far fewer indicators of neurodegenerative disease than mice whose mothers did not exercise. Based on this information researchers offered that workouts could have a lifelong benefit for the unborn child.
Similarly, in regards to nutrition, a recent study published in the Journal of Physiology demonstrated that a mother’s ingestion of polyunsaturated fats had a lasting effect on the development of her child’s digestive system and lowered the child’s likelihood of developing allergies.
Polyunsaturated fats (PFAs) are commonly found in nuts, seeds, and fish. They are known to lower the risk of heart attacks and be beneficial for brain health. In this study, however, a specific PFA known as n-3PUFA caused an increase in permeability in the guts of babies. Gut permeability is important because it allows for bacteria and materials to travel through the gut lining more easily, rather than stay trapped in the digestive system for extended periods. Once materials pass out of the gut into the bloodstream the baby’s immune system can respond to them properly.
This study found, when mothers consumed PFAs during pregnancy the result was babies with healthier guts and fewer allergies. The proper PFAs can most easily be taken in the form of fish or walnut oil.
While doctors and patients alike will no doubt contine to debate what are the “correct” things to do, these two new studies lend confidence to the lasting positive effects of exercise and ingestion of good fats during pregnancy.