Diet soda and no fish can harm mother and baby

March 18, 2013 - 06:34

Artificial sweeteners and a diet poor in fish may harm the pregnant woman and her baby.

If a pregnant woman frequently drinks diet sodas, the risk of her baby having asthma by age seven is increased by 30 percent, according to a new study.

Eat lots of fish and avoid ‘light’ products while you’re pregnant. Doing so reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia in the mother and asthma in the new-born.

This was one of the research findings presented at the recent ‘fosterprogrammering’ (‘foetal programming’) seminar in Copenhagen, where some of the world’s leading researchers in the field presented their latest research.

“We have monitored the dietary habits of 50,000 pregnant women,” said Professor Thorhallur Halldorsson, of the State Serum Institute, at the seminar, arranged by the Danish interdisciplinary research centre, the Centre for Fetal Programmering (CFP).

“Those who never or only rarely ate fish in the first three months of their pregnancy were twice as likely to develop pre-eclampsia as those who ate fish regularly during early pregnancy.”

Eat fish at least once a week

The pregnant women were asked to fill in diet questionnaires three times during the first three months of their pregnancy. Even after accounting for other factors of the women’s lifestyles that might affect the results, they found a strong link between a diet poor in fish and pre-eclampsia.

Twice as many of the women who in all three questionnaires said that they never ate fish had pre-eclampsia, compared to those who had eaten fish in hot dishes or sandwiches at least once a week in the first trimester.

“We don’t know whether it’s the fish oil or the high contents of vitamin D in fish that reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia. That’s something we’ll be looking into in upcoming studies,” said Halldorsson.

“But we strongly suspect that it is vitamin D that has a beneficial effect on inflammatory processes in the female body. To test this hypothesis we will measure the vitamin D concentration in the women’s blood.”

Nordic women particularly vulnerable

Previous studies also indicate that that vitamin D has an effect on the course of the pregnancy. Scientists know, for instance, that women who become pregnant in the autumn and live in the Nordic region have an increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia.

This could be because the women don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun, he said.

Artificial sweeteners increase the risk of asthma
We don’t know whether it’s the fish oil or the high contents of vitamin D in fish that reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia. That’s something we’ll be looking into in upcoming studies. But we strongly suspect that it is vitamin D that has a beneficial effect on inflammatory processes in the female body.
Thorhallur Halldorsson

This was just one of many research findings presented at the seminar, which attracted researchers from Australia, Holland, England and the US.

Another new Danish study shows that ‘light’ soft drinks also have a negative effect on the foetal development in the mother’s womb.

If a pregnant woman frequently drinks diet sodas, the risk of her baby having asthma by age seven is increased by 30 percent.

This study was conducted by the State Serum Institute and the CFP and the findings were recently published in the journal PlosOne

The researchers analysed blood samples and questionnaires from 60,000 pregnant women in the Danish National Birth Cohort. One of the questions in the questionnaire was about their intake of light soft drinks.

Low-fat yogurt and nuts affect foetus

In addition to the link between pregnant women’s intake of light soft drinks and asthma diagnoses for seven-year-olds, this study also showed that 18-month-old babies have a 23-percent increased risk of being diagnosed with asthma if their mother drank a lot of light drinks during her pregnancy.

The research team from the State Serum Institute has previously found that a seven-year-old child also has an increased risk of developing asthma if the mother ate a lot of low-fat yogurt while pregnant. They found that nuts, on the other hand, can reduce the risk of asthma in the baby.

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Read the Danish version of this article at videnskab.dk

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