So, here’s yet another study to drive pregnant women crazy. Researchers at the University of Colorado said a mother’s food choice during pregnancy “sensitizes” the fetus to the taste and smell of those foods and “even shapes their brain development.”
The experiments were done on mice by Professor Josephine Todrank, now of the University of Haifa. As reported in the Daily Mail, the professor claims that there’s “no reason” to think that the food preferences shown by mice based on their mother’s prenatal diet would produce different results in humans. She goes on to say: “It is not yet clear how long these changes and preferences last, but we are currently investigating that question.”
Um, yes. We don’t know how long the preferences last, and while a healthy prenatal diet is important, can we please lay off the brain changing claims? Pretty Please?
Pregnancy is many things: a blessing, a romance, an hourglass. It’s also a time when a woman is essentially alone with the responsibility of nurturing a life. So what do we as a culture decide to do? Drive her crazy! Don’t eat goat cheese. Don’t eat deli turkey. Eat fish. Wait! Don’t! Eat! That! Fish!
I wrote a pregnancy book with a doctor named Joel Evans. Joel’s advice about diet remains incredibly sensible and boils down to this: Eat a reasonable diet. If you make healthy choices like eating whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins and fats, it’ll be better for you and make it easier for you to lose weight postpartum. It’s also better for the baby, sure. But don’t be fooled. Fetuses get the nutrients they need no matter what. So if you the pregnant mom aren’t eating enough calcium the baby will just take it from your bones. For more specific information on the influence of prenatal diet, check out Annie Murphy Paul’s book Origins.
But please, please, please don’t tell me about a mother’s diet changing a fetus’ brain and turning that little lima bean into a junk food junkie. If you eat a lot of junk food when you’re pregnant and continue to eat a lot of junk food after you’re pregnant and if you offer up a lot of junk food at home, your kids may very well grow up liking junk food instead of healthy food.
Food habits and preferences are incredibly complex. Food preferences evolve over a lifetime. Reducing a taste for junk food, which is manufactured and packaged to appeal to kids of all ages, to a mother’s prenatal diet is just one more way to drive women crazy about the choices we make.
What do you think?