Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good Prenatal Diet Prevents Puny Pancreases and Little Livers

Hi Birth Peeps,
This week each one of us can change birth in our culture by helping motivate (not guilt trip)--and lovingly feed--even one pregnant mom to eat well during pregnancy.

The pancreas normally secretes varying amounts of insulin in response to blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not secrete sufficient insulin to regulate the blood sugar.

A lot of attention has been given to maternal weight gain and the baby’s birth weight as a measure of healthy growth and development. Research in the past fifteen years is showing how even a normal birth weight does not always reflect organogenesis—a fancy word that means the cellular development of organs in the fetus.

Diabetes is on the rise in young people. There are two kinds of diabetes. Type 1 (also known as Juvenile Diabetes, and thought to be primarily genetic) and Type II (also known as adult-onset) which is due to environmental factors. In this article, I am referring to Type II. There’s a lot of research being done to find out why some kids and adults develop diabetes, even when they are seemingly healthy, of normal weight, or without a family history of diabetes.

Researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston found a link between prenatal nutrition and diabetes. Pregnant mice were fed low protein diets in the third trimester (many people mistakenly think that after the first trimester, nutrition doesn’t matter any more); not surprisingly, they gave birth to low birth weight pups. Fed a healthy diet after birth, the pups gained weight and appeared as healthy as the mice fed a prenatal diet rich in protein. However, as adult mice, the majority of the low protein (LP) group developed diabetes. Why?

Normally, the pancreas secretes the right amount of insulin in response to varying blood sugar levels. Scientists discovered that in the LP group, the pancreas could secrete insulin, but it could only secrete a limited amount of insulin regardless of the blood sugar levels. In other studies, researchers found that when the prenatal diet was low in protein, pancreatic cells were smaller and fewer in number. And, that even when fed a good diet after birth, the abnormal pancreas cellular damage was irreversible.

So, eat a well-balanced, protein rich diet throughout pregnancy—grow healthy organs in your baby.


The growth and development of fetal livers is dependent on many factors: genes, a healthy placenta, and maternal factors including a good diet. During the prolific growth and development of a baby's liver during pregnancy, the liver is sensitive to damange from malnutrition, infection and other chemical.

In one study where pregnant rats were give low protein diets in late gestation, the pups were born with smaller livers and abnormal liver function. 

The size and health of the liver is not evident at birth, or in the baby's birth weight, but the size and healthy function of the liver is set before birth and follows us throughout life.

Virginia and I are in Sydney, Australia today. I am pleased to see our Peeps are growing in numbers. It's a bit difficult to find internet in some places, so I may not be back for a few days... Thinking of all of you all the same,


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