Pregnancy Edition – Nutrition Research and News


High gluten intake during pregnancy linked to increased risks of diabetes in children

Although more research is needed, a recent study suggests that maternal gluten consumption during pregnancy could increase the child’s risk of type 1 diabetes. 

Findings from this study also suggest that:

  • The risk of type 1 diabetes in the children increases proportionally per 10g/day increased gluten intake.
  • Over an average follow-up period of 15.6 years, children of women who consumed at least 20g of gluten per day had twice the risks of developing type 1 diabetes compared to children of women whose daily gluten intake was less than 7g.

Since celiac disease and type 1 diabetes “share” some HLA genes, pregnant women or those intending to conceive may want to consider swapping gluten-containing foods (such as wheat, rye, spelt, and barley) for other gluten-free nutritious foods. 

Study reference: Antvorskov, Julie C., Thorhallur I. Halldorsson, Knud Josefsen, Jannet Svensson, Charlotta Granström, Bart O. Roep, Trine H. Olesen, Laufey Hrolfsdottir, Karsten Buschard, and Sjudur F. Olsen. “Association between maternal gluten intake and type 1 diabetes in offspring: national prospective cohort study in Denmark.” bmj 362 (2018): k3547.

Prenatal fish oil supplementation may improve children’s growth

A mother’s diet during pregnancy can have a profound effect on the fetus and the results can last through childhood.

A new study investigating the effects of prenatal fish oil supplements shows that children born of women who took the supplements were more likely to have healthier growth during the first six years of life.

The study involved 736 pregnant Danish women who either took daily fish oil supplements (the experimental group) or olive oil supplements (the control group). The women started the supplements from week 24 of their pregnancy until one week after delivery.

The researchers assessed the children’s height, weight, head and waist measurements 11 times from birth to age six. They found that the children’s whose mothers took the fish oil supplements had a higher body mass index throughout their first 6 years of life compared to those whose mothers received the olive oil supplements.

The higher BMI was due to a higher percentage of lean muscle and bone mass, and not extra body fat, indicating that fish oil supplements may exert a general growth-stimulating effect in utero.

Study reference: Rebecca Kofod Vinding, Jakob Stokholm, Astrid Sevelsted, Tobias Sejersen, Bo L Chawes, Klaus Bønnelykke, Jonathan Thorsen, Laura D Howe, Martin Krakauer, Hans Bisgaard. Effect of fish oil supplementation in pregnancy on bone, lean, and fat mass at six years: randomised clinical trial. BMJ, 2018; k3312.

Babies born at home may have a healthier gut microbiome

New research indicates that babies born at home have a more diverse gut and fecal microflora compared to those born in hospitals. 

The researchers followed 35 infants and their mothers until the babies were 1 month old. 14 of the babies were born at home (four of them in water) and 21 in the hospital. 

Stool samples indicated that the hospital-born babies had greater inflammatory gene expression in epithelial cells which cover organ linings, skin, and mouth. Moreover, hospital-born infants had lower levels of Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, and Lactobacillus, and higher Clostridium and Enterobacteriaceae compared to babies born at home.

Why these differences in gut microbiota between infants born at home versus hospitals? 

Well, the scientists speculate that common hospital interventions, such as infant bathing and antibiotic eye prophylaxis, and the aseptic hospital’s environment could be involved. 

Although more research is needed, this study’s findings favors the idea of home births and/or revamping the hospital environment to mimic home conditions for non-high-risk births. Since the gut flora affects the immunity and metabolism, a healthy microbiome could reduce the babies’ risks of obesity, diabetes, asthma, and gut disorders later in life.

Study reference: Combellick, Joan L., Hakdong Shin, Dongjae Shin, Yi Cai, Holly Hagan, Corey Lacher, Din L. Lin, Kathryn McCauley, Susan V. Lynch, and Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello. “Differences in the fecal microbiota of neonates born at home or in the hospital.” Scientific reports 8, no. 1 (2018): 15660.

Mom’s microbiome during pregnancy linked to child’s autism risk

Cutting-edge research suggests that the mother’s gut health during pregnancy plays a critical role in determining the child’s risk of developing ASD.

The researchers hypothesized that, in mice, an immune reaction to interleukin-17a (IL-17a), a molecule produced by the immune system, could trigger ASD-like behaviors. 

To test their hypothesis, the team used Jax and Tac mice from two different laboratories. Unlike the Jax mice, the Tac mice had gut microbes that made them susceptible to an IL-17a inflammatory reaction. 

Both groups were exposed to a virus designed to create an immune response. Only the Tac mice (the ones susceptible to inflammation) had pups that developed ASD-like behaviors.

To prevent an inflammatory response, the researchers then artificially blocked the IL-17a molecule in the Tac mice. The pups born did not show ASD-like behavior. 

Finally, the researchers exposed the Jax mice to the gut flora of Tac mice (making them more susceptible to inflammation). Interestingly, they found that pups born after this intervention showed ASD-like behavior. 

Practical tip: Although these findings may not be applicable to humans, pregnant women and those planning to conceive could opt for a gut-friendly (and microbe-friendly) diet and lifestyle. Probiotics (or fecal transplants, when medically necessary) may also positively influence the mother’s microbiome.

Study reference: Lammert, Catherine R., Elizabeth L. Frost, Ashley C. Bolte, Matt J. Paysour, Mariah E. Shaw, Calli E. Bellinger, Thaddeus K. Weigel, Eli R. Zunder, and John R. Lukens. “Cutting edge: critical roles for microbiota-mediated regulation of the immune system in a prenatal immune activation model of autism.” The Journal of Immunology 201, no. 3 (2018): 845-850.

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