09:55 (GMT+2), Thu, 15 September 2011
I've always been obese. Is there anything I can do now that I'm pregnant to prevent my child from becoming overweight?
Obesity has genetic components and environmental components. Ideally, you should aim to gain no more than 10kgs. At the same time, you shouldn't lose weight or gain too little. Women who start off at a higher pre-pregnancy weight or who gain too much weight during pregnancy are at a higher risk of having an overweight chid. Also, check your blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes (or high blood sugar during pregnancy) can also lead to overweight babies. However, you shouldn't attempt to diet during pregnancy. The low carbohydrate diets are especially dangerous.
A recent study in Brittan, New Zealand, and in Singapore revealed that a woman's diet during pregnancy can alter the function of her baby's DNA in the womb, increasing its risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in later life. Scientists say it has to do with "epigenetic change" that happens in the womb, the degree to which is related to a mother's diet during pregnancy. One of the factors relating to greater epigenetic change was a low carbohydrate diet during the first three months of pregnancy. One theory was that an embryo fed a carbohydrate-restricted diet assumed it would be born into a carbohydrate deprived environment and altered its metabolism to store more fat, which could be used as fuel when food was scarce.
The trick is to follow a balanced, healthy diet that provides enough kilojoules to maintain a healthy pregnancy, but not too many that you put on unnecessary weight. Make sure you include two to four servings of fruit, at least three servings of vegetables, and at least two servings of wholegrains (like wholegrain cereals, wholegrain bread, brown rice, or wholewheat pasta). Keep fat intake low but eat some essential fats from fatty fish and seed oils. Stay away from sugary foods, junk food and fried food. Exercise regularly and maintain a good fluid balance.
Is there a specific diet that can help autistic children?
Autism is a complex condition that is treated through a variety of different modalities. While diet is not a cure for autism, it can help manage the condition. When it comes to diet, scientists have found that autistic children have a decreased ability to break down proteins in the digestive tract. Gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diets are getting a lot of attention in the autism community. Some parents, doctors and researchers say that children have shown mild to dramatic improvements in speech and/or behaviour as well as digestive function after these substances were removed from their diet. Scientists believe that some of the components released into the bloodstream from gluten and casein-containing foods have opioid (morphine-like) properties, which could exacerbate the symptoms of autism.
Unfortunately, scientific research and good clinical trials are lacking in this area and we need more research. However, there's no doubt that good nutrition can improve brain function and behaviour.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains, including oats, rye, barley, bulgur, durum (pasta), kamut and spelt, and foods made from those grains. They're also found in food starches, semolina, couscous, malt, some vinegars, soy sauce, flavourings, artificial colourants and hydrolysed vegetable proteins. A child on a gluten-free diet can enjoy polenta, pap, corn, cornthins, rice, rice cakes and rice thins, sweet potato, quinoa, millet, sorghum (Maltabella) and tapioca, which are all gluten-free. Casein is a protein found in milk and foods containing milk, such as cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, whey and some margarines. The only cheese that is casein-free is ricotta. Protein foods, like meats, chicken, fish and eggs as well as fruits and vegetables are allowed on the diet. Some research suggests that autistic children may be sensitive to salicylates, chemicals found in certain foods, namely almonds, apples, berries, cherries, coffee, eggplant, oranges, peppers, potatoes, tangerines, tea and tomatoes.
Before you consider a change in your child's diet, consult with a doctor or dietician to make sure you're providing an adequate diet and nutritional supplements, if necessary.
"While diet is not a cure for autism, it can help manage the condition."