Dr. Greene

Green Power for Pregnant Moms

Green vegetables during pregnancy appear to be even more powerful than we thought. Besides providing great nutrition, helping with neurodevelopment and helping the baby-to-come develop a taste for vegetables, these powerhouses appear to help protect the baby from chemicals and even from type 1 diabetes.

BPA, a chemical estrogen, is found in some hard plastics, in the linings of many food cans, and in many cash register receipts. And it doesn’t stay there. It gets into our bodies when we eat or drink something that has been stored or especially heated in one of these containers. It could even get into our bodies when we handle receipts, then eat without washing our hands.

The CDC estimates that right now BPA is in the bodies of 93 percent of Americans, with higher levels in teens than in adults, and higher levels in children than in teens.

In animal studies, exposure to even trace amounts early in life has been linked to later health problems including obesity, early puberty, and breast and prostate cancer.

Researchers at Duke University have shown that this early exposure affects the offspring’s epigenetics: it turns on and off different genes, which could result in the problems we see.

Here’s the exciting part: researchers found they could block BPA damage, even in the face of significant exposure, by giving pregnant animals extra folate, a nutrient found in green (think foliage) vegetables such as spinach.

The nutrient switched the genes back the way they should be, and the BPA effect was nullified. The researchers describe this as compelling evidence that certain nutrients can counteract BPA when given during pregnancy.
This research is still preliminary, but it makes sense to me.

Of course I still recommend not knowingly ingesting BPA or other potentially harmful chemicals, but eating a healthy diet that includes green vegetables may be a great idea for the times you or your children are unknowingly exposed.

More good news for pregnant moms – a new study suggests that eating more veggies during pregnancy lowers the risk that your baby will develop type 1 diabetes.

A Swedish study, published in the journal Pediatric Diabetes studied 6,500 5-year-olds. Sweden has a high rate of diabetes.. But the kids with moms who ate vegetables daily during their pregnancy had the lowest risk, and children with moms who rarely ate vegetables while pregnant had twice the risk of having a child with type 1 diabetes.

Other food groups didn’t show the same increase or decrease in risk, nor did socio-economic factors such as the mother’s education level. Vegetables are packed with many vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that pregnant women need to keep their bodies in tip-top shape for the miraculous changes that she and her baby will go through. As the study suggests, starting your pregnancy off with the right balance of nutrition can give your little one the best chance to live a happy, healthy life.

Before these studies, we already knew that enjoying vegetables, including some green veggies, packs a powerful punch. But they may nourish and protect your child in more ways than we still understand.
Alan Greene, MD, FAAP
Hou, L., Zhang, X., Wang, D., & Baccarelli, A. (2012). Environmental chemical exposures and human epigenetics. International journal of epidemiology, 41(1), 79-105.

Brekke, H. K., & Ludvigsson, J. (2010). Daily vegetable intake during pregnancy negatively associated to islet autoimmunity in the offspring--the ABIS study. Pediatric diabetes, 11(4), 244-50.

Dolinoy, D.C., Huang, D., and Jirtle, R.L. “Maternal Nutrient Supplementation Counteracts Bisphenol-A-Induced DNA Hypomethylation in Early Development.” PNAS, 7 Aug 2007, 104(32):13056-13061.

Calafat, A.M., Kuklenyik, Z., Reidy, J.A., Caudill, S.P., Ekong, J., and Needham L.L. “Urinary Concentrations of Bisphenol A and 4-Nonylphenol in a Human Reference Population.Environmental Health Perspectives, Apr 2005, 113:391-395.

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Dr. Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing pediatrician, author, speaker, children’s health advocate, and father of four.

Dr. Levine

Dr. Alanna Levine is a New York based pediatrician and a mom of two children.