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Type-2 Diabetes May Have its Roots in Prenatal Nutrition

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Type 2 Diabetes

According to a new study, a lack of maternal nutrients during pregnancy and breastfeeding may lead to type-2 diabetes later in life.

Why are the rates of type-2 diabetes increasing among both children and adults today? Experts believe that diabetes may not only have its roots in body weight and lack of physical activity, but may also begin as early as the prenatal period. Could our mother’s diet during pregnancy increase our risk of developing type-2 diabetes later in life? Research now says “yes”, according to a study published in the June 13, 2011 issue of American Psychological Association online.

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Type-2 Diabetes on the Rise

Organizations such as the American Diabetes Association report that about 25.8 million children and adults living in the U.S. today have type-2 diabetes, although only about 3/4 of them have been diagnosed. Experts from the CDC report that these numbers have grown over recent years. In 199, about 2.8% of the total population had type-2 diabetes, while in 2009, that percentage grew to 6%.

While the exact reason for this increase remains a mystery, researchers are beginning to look at possibility that what the mother eats during pregnancy could factor into this trend.

Dr. Peter Nathanielsz Conducts Research on Prenatal Nutrition

Heading this new study was Peter Nathanielsz, a well-known expert and researcher for many years in the field of prenatal nutrition as it relates to long-term health. A team from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio wanted to see if in fact, certain people are predisposed to developing type-2 diabetes even before birth.

In order to reduce as much genetic influence as possible, researchers used 18 female baboons who were similar in age and physical traits and all became pregnant by the same male baboon. 12 of the females were fed an appropriate diet for their weight, but the remaining 6 were given a restricted diet that consisted of about 70% of the amount of recommended daily intake. These animals were fed the same restricted calorie diet while lactating. The young were fed a normal diet once they were weaned.

Diabetes May be Affected by Nutrition in Pregnancy and Lactation

Results of the study showed that the six baboons whose mothers were fed a calorie restricted diet had higher fasting glucose and insulin levels as well as other markers for pre-diabetes, while the remaining 12 had all normal levels.

Researchers point out that the amount of restriction was small in comparison to levels that might be found in people who are severely undernourished. These results are a concern given the fact that nearly one billion people across the globe are undernourished according to the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations.

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What Should Consumers Know about Pregnancy Nutrition?

As proven in much of Nathanielsz’s previous research, this current study confirms how crucial the mother’s diet is with regard to the long-term health of her baby into adulthood. Not only does the mother’s diet predispose her children to potentially developing diabetes, but according to the research team, type-2 diabetes may be even more likely “should other dietary challenges such as a westernized diet be experienced.”

Expectant parents ought to remember it is not just the number of calories a woman consumes, it is also imperative that she is getting the appropriate amounts of protein, fruits and vegetables, grains and other essential foods. If you are expecting a baby, be sure to consult with your care provider or a nutritionist to be sure you are getting a balance of the healthiest foods in your daily pregnancy diet.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

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