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An expectant mother’s unhealthy diet can increase the risk of disease for the fetus

Expectant mothers need to pay close attention to their dietary habits, according to a new study conducted at the University of Turku. Research by doctoral researcher Ella Koivuniemi found that unhealthy diets during pregnancy can increase the fetus’s risk for diseases like cardiovascular issues later in life. Koivuniemi recommends pregnant women consume at least five servings of plant-based foods daily, but only half of the women in the study met this recommendation. Moreover, a third of the women did not eat vegetables daily.

It is essential for expectant mothers to consume enough nutrients to support both their health and that of the fetus. Vegetables, fruits, and berries are rich in fibers, vitamins, minerals, and folic acid. Folic acid is crucial for preventing birth defects and should be obtained from food as well as supplements. A severe lack of folic acid in the fetus can lead to neural tube closure disorders, which are rare in Finland but carry significant risks.

The fetus can adapt to its environment during pregnancy through fetal programming, which can impact the child’s later life. The mother’s obesity and poor diet can affect the fetus’s metabolism, increasing the child’s risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes. Epigenetics plays a role in this phenomenon, with evidence suggesting that the fetus’s metabolism may adapt to store fat efficiently during times of need, leading to future health challenges.

Research on epigenetics in humans is ongoing and complex, with evidence from cross-generational population studies supporting its role in human health. Additionally, Koivuniemi also examined children under school age’s eating habits and found that most did not consume enough vegetables and fruits.

The challenges implementing nutritional recommendations for both expectant mothers and young children may be due to factors like busy lifestyles, fatigue

By Samantha Jones

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