Baby Development – Finally, an Excuse for Pregnant Women to Eat Bacon and Eggs finds University of North Carolina
Posted Jan 09 2010 8:31pm
By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist
Pregnancy cravings can range from healthy to down right strange but if you have a hankering for country-style breakfasts while expecting you’re in luck. A new study found that a nutrient found in these foods may actually help the fetus develop the memory regions of the brain.
The University of North Carolina study found that dietary intake, particularly choline, in expectant mothers can alter the switches controlling brain development. Senior scientist Steven Zeisel explains: “Understanding more about how diet modifies our genes could be very important for assuring optimal development.”
The discovery was made when Zeisel and his team fed 2 groups of pregnant mice 2 different diets right at the time when a fetus develops the hippocampus; the part of the brain responsible for memory. The first group received 1.1 gram of choline per kilogram of body weight the other group received little to none. In the group that did not receive choline, the proteins in the brain responsible for neuronal cell creation and maturation were changed.
The nutrient choline is often associated with the B complex vitamins, although choline is not technically a vitamin but an essential nutrient. We can synthesize some choline, but we must consume it in our diet to maintain health. Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in muscle control and memory. It is also responsible for cell signaling, cell integrity, and lipid (fat) transport and metabolism.
It is a certainly a stretch to call bacon a health food, but it does go to show that a well balanced, varied diet can ensure a healthy pregnancy. This doesn’t mean women should consume excessive amounts of bacon, but its reassuring to know you are getting a vital nutrient if bacon is a pregnancy craving. Choline is found primarily in foods like meat, including pork, and eggs. Vegetarians need not despair as choline is also found in soy, nuts, and wheat germ. The Agricultural Research Services Nutrient Data Library is a great resource for finding food sources of all nutrients and their recommended daily intake per life stage. It is important to maintain regular checkups with a physician throughout pregnancy and be sure to ask about your diet to make sure you and your baby are getting adequate nutrients.