Friday, August 3, 2007

Mom's Meat-Heavy Diet = Kids' Stress Response

Dear Me,

This was a study reported in the
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism about how pregnant moms' prenatal diets affect their children's hormonal response to stress.

This was posted at:

Read on...

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Adults whose mothers ate an unbalanced, meat-heavy diet during pregnancy may tend to have an exaggerated hormonal response to stress, a study suggests.

The findings are in line with previous research linking such prenatal diets to higher adulthood blood pressure.

They also underscore the importance of pregnant women getting a balanced diet, which includes important carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables, according to the study authors.

They report the findings in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The study included 70 adult children of British women who, in the late 1960s, had been advised to eat a high-protein, low-carb diet to lower their risk of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication marked by high blood pressure, and high-protein diets have not been proven to lower the risk.

The mothers had all attended the same maternity hospital in Motherwell, Scotland, and detailed records were kept on the amount of meat and other foods they ate each week.

In the present study, their adult children were asked to perform two stressful tasks, public speaking and mental arithmetic. Researchers took saliva samples before, during and after the tasks to measure changes in the "stress hormone" cortisol.

In general, the study found, cortisol levels climbed in tandem with the amount of meat study participants' mothers had eaten late in pregnancy.

Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Among its effects are elevated blood pressure and impaired blood sugar metabolism, and high cortisol levels have been linked to chronic high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, explained Dr. David I. W. Phillips of the University of Southampton, the study's senior author.

All of this, he told Reuters Health, suggests that an unbalanced, protein-heavy diet affects fetal development in a way that boosts sensitivity to stress.

For any given stressor, these individuals may secrete more cortisol — not only early in life, but into adulthood as well, Phillips said.

The underlying reason for the findings is not completely clear. However, the researchers point out that high-protein diets have been shown to stimulate the HPA axis, a component of the nervous system that regulates cortisol and other stress-related hormones.

If mothers have chronically high cortisol levels during pregnancy, that may "reprogram" the developing fetal HPA axis, the researchers speculate.

The diets followed by mothers in this study were similar to the Atkins-style plans that have since become popular for weight control, according to Phillips. This implies that such diets are "not sensible" for pregnant women, he said.

Instead, women should strive for balanced diets that include healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables — especially green vegetables, Phillips noted, as they contain important nutrients like the B vitamin folate.

By Amy Norton
Source: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, June 2007.

To pregnant moms out there, attack your veggies and fruits with gusto! =)

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