Posts Tagged ‘epigenetics’

Nature vs. Nurture – A Shocking Discovery

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in BABY, FOR MOMS, Fun as a Toddler Mom, HEALTH, New Mom Experience, Parenting, TODDLER

Nature vs Nurture- A shocking Discovery

I was at the airport in Vegas getting reading to board the plane to fly back home to Florida….

I was in the hurry at the time, with the gates literally closing within 5 minutes, but I knew that my husband was running behind after having to drop off the rental car, so I wouldn’t get on the plane without him anyways. I had Lexi in a my Emotion stroller ( which is by the way ridiculously awesome for airplane travel) and 3 carry-ons with me, but I was determined to get some water and reading materials for the flight. After browsing their magazine stand and not finding anything that would interest me, I made my way to the book area and after skipping all the romance novels, I saw this book, called “How Children Succeed” and I thought the title was good enough for me to make it an entertaining and at the same time educational read while Alexis sleeps on the plane.

Little did I know that that book would become the kind of parenting science/child psychology/biology book that you devour and then recommend to all your friends and blog about.

So here I am, so impressed with it, that I am writing this post while riding in the car from Orlando.

Let me start with a piece of advice for everyone reading this:

Go on Amazon.com ( or wherever it is you buy books) and order this book immediately! It does not matter whether you are 16 years old, 50 years old, or childless. It is seriously that impressive and interesting to anyone who has ever been interested in why people turn out they way they do and what makes some people successful and well rounded individuals while others seem to struggle at everything they do, how much parenting really influences us and our children. This book has insights,  parts of which I have read in numerous parenting and psychology books I have gone through over the year, yet no one book has ever summed everything up and traced it from the beginning to the end, rather than rely on us trusting its conclusions.

Epigenetics and Prenatal Development

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in EVERYTHING ELSE, HEALTH, My Pregnancy, Pre-CONCEPTION

As I continue to seek out and read books about prenatal development and epigenetics ( in my words, a study of how genes get turned on and off without changing DNA during intra-uterine development), I am more and more amazed at how much we don’t know, our mothers didn’t know, and many doctors, who refuse to educate themselves, don’t know.

And in this case what we don’t know CAN hurt us and our babies.

My current read is Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives by Annie Murphy Paul, a scientific writer who set out to educate herself as she embarked on her second pregnancy.
I’m only on chapter 2, but it goes along the same lines Dr Verny followed in his Pre-Parenting: Nurturing Your Child from Conception.

Right now, I am reading about nutrition and how it affects the expression of genes and level of hormones. It’s actually not new to me. I read about it in my favorite pre-conception book Get Ready to Get Pregnant: Your Complete Prepregnancy Guide to Making a Smart and Healthy Baby.
It was a new concept to me at the time, that what we eat and how we eat can “program” the fetus by “turning the genes on and off”, but it turns out it’s not that uncommon of a concept in the scientific world. It’s just our real world is pretty slow to jump on the bang wagon ( as it has always been with any medical breakthrough that challenges the previous notions).

For those who are curious, just a quick example in short:

Nature made it so that the intrauterine environment “lets” the baby know of the world outside of us via hormones and a few other processes.
For example, if a mother is constantly stressed and the released cortisol crosses the placenta, the baby’s brain will be programmed for the flight-or-fight response, taking from it the fact that in the outside world, the baby will need to be quick and vigilant. The baby will come out of the womb ready for the environment that was “pre-programmed” into him, fast and unable to focus, possibly even predisposed to aggression. That’s how evolution helped our ancestors survive.
…or…
By eating lots of sugar and simple carbs that send our insulin skyrocketing (and doing it all the time), we’re “teaching” our unborn baby to become insulin resistant, so in the future he/she might have troubles keeping weight off (apparently, insulin also controls how our body stores fat). The same happens with leptin, the substance that tells us when we are full. I don’t remember the exact mechanism by which leptin resistance occurs in a unborn baby ( i think it was somehow connected with insulin as well), but it creates a human being who is unable to know when to stop eating.

On another hand, {i read in the new book} it turns out that low birth weight babies (due to malnutrition specifically, I don’t think that other reasons, like preterm birth, were included in that) suffer from the same problems as  babies born with insulin resistance- diabetes, obesity, heart disease. At first glance, it’s surprising, but before I even read the explanation for why it happens, it made perfect sense to me:

When the baby doesn’t receive enough nutrients, it learns to live on little, his body being “programmed” that food out in the real world is scare. However, when he’s born into the world of excess and processed foods, his body can’t handle it properly, having been “taught” to store every single nutrient received (kind of in the same way the fad starvation diets never work long term). I guess the effects were the worst for babies who were malnutritioned during the 2nd and 3rd trimester.
What baffled me, though, was why the heart disease? What would this have to do with the heart? The explanation was the following: by receiving few nutrients, the fetus “sends” them to the most important organ in our body, our brain, leaving other organs short of necessary food. That, later in life, came back to bite him. In addition, inability to properly control and process high fat, processed diets helped that too.  They did a study on the survivors of one winter during World War II, during which food was so scarce that most people had to live on 500 calories a day ( including pregnant women), and a tremendous amount of survivors born or conceived during that winter were obese,with diabetes and heart disease, compared to babies born during other times. Here the effects were stronger, if malnutrition happened during the first trimester, when the heart was developing {which isn’t really fair, because of morning sickness which is something that our body does to us)

There’s an amazing amount of information and studies brought up in all three books I mentioned, it’d be impossible to relay every single detail of even one example here. It’s definitely fascinating and opened my eyes on many things. Even if you’re sceptical, I’d recommend you read it, because the examples and studies brought up in the books are pretty convincing.

Either way, as I go through this, I find it slightly difficult to find a happy middle. Everywhere we turn there another advisory about what is good or bad during pregnancy. It seems like everything can influence the baby. Omegas-3s in fish are great for the brain and produces higher IQ scores, but at the same time, fish is high in mercury, exposure to which produces low IQ scores. It’s like we can’t do anything right. {btw, my personal answer to the fish dilemma are sardines- small fish that doesn’t accumulate much mercury at all and one of the best fatty fishes for Omega-3s. Canned sardines are tasty, safe and very nutritious}.

My personal dilemma has been Vitamin E. When I was preparing for pregnancy, I found one Prenatal Vitamins brand that fit what I wanted,which  was “no vitamin or mineral could exceed 100% of daily value” ( it’s amazing how many prenatal vitamins have mega doses). I was very happy about it, until I showed it to my OB, who liked it a lot too, until he saw vitamin E content- 100% of DV. Then he informed me that there have been studies that linked vitamin E consumption to heart defects. So he prescribed me a formula that had 50% of vitamin E. After I got home, I jumped online to try and research those claims. I did, in fact, find plenty of articles citing several studies in which vitamin E consumption before pregnancy and during pregnancy of as little as 2/3 of Daily Value was linked with 9 fold increased risk of heart defect.
Obviously, supplementing vitamin E was not something I wanted to do ( considering I was already eating at the point where I received everything at at least 100% from food). Vitamin E can be found in oil, nuts, but the truth is I don’t really consume oil, or products that contain oil ( processed foods), and I am not a fan of nuts ( though I do take them for their nutritional benefit).

For a bit, i wondered whether that increased risk was connected more with consumption of fatty, oily foods, rather than actual vitamin E. But of course I can’t completely discount the study based on a hunch. So I don’t supplement E, but I don’t really get much E from diet. I’m between a rock and a hard place. Hubby and I decided that we’d curb vitamin E consumption pre-pregnancy and during the 1st trimester when the heart is developing, and then ease up on that in the 2nd trimester. But I still feel uneasy about the whole situation….