Things like obesity and allergies could be determined in the womb

Things like obesity and allergies could be determined in the womb

Our health issues could be determined in the womb, according to new research. 

The likelihood of adults developing obesity, asthma, allergies, cardiovascular disease and many more conditions may well be determined before birth, according to the findings of a British Nutrition Foundation’s (BNF) Task Force Report released today.

The Task Force Report:‘Nutrition and Development: short- and long-term consequences for health’, was launched at BNF’s conference for health professionals at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

The Report was compiled by a panel of eminent academic experts and looks at aspects of nutrition and early life development, including the impact of a mother’s health and eating habits on her baby, even before conception.

Professor Tom Sanders, chairman of BNF’s Task Force, explained: “Evidence suggests that poor fetal growth, especially followed by accelerated growth in infancy, may be associated with long-term adverse consequences for health. Poor fetal growth may also affect kidney development, making offspring more sensitive to the blood pressure raising effect of salt and, therefore, increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Asthma is currently one of the world’s most common chronic diseases. At BNF’s conference Professor Graham Devereux, from the University of Aberdeen, said: “The nutrient content of the maternal diet during pregnancy, in particular vitamin E, vitamin D, zinc, selenium and polyunsaturated fatty acids, may influence the development of childhood Asthma and allergic disease.  There are currently a number of theories proposing the impact of particular nutrients on risk of these conditions and this is an exciting area of current research.” 

The Task Force Report also looks at the causes of obesity and concludes that the increased appetite some people have in adulthood, compared to others, may have also been programmed in the womb as a result of their mother’s own diet and weight. 

Almost half of all women of child-bearing age in England are overweight or obese and this can be the cause of a biological cycle of maternal obesity leading to health issues for children in later life.  

Sara Stanner, Science Programme Manager at BNF, said: “There is now unequivocal evidence to show the biological link between obesity and weight related health issues in women and their children.

“This is a very important message in the fight against obesity.  Women need to know that their weight and health, during pregnancy, and even before they conceive, plays a key part in securing a healthy long-term future for their children.  Once a baby is conceived, the biological framework for its future health is already set, so, where possible, women should look to improve their health status before they conceive. A major challenge the UK faces in addressing the obesity epidemic is the fact that around half of all pregnancies in the UK are unplanned.”

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