Two thirds of parents are overweight and scientists have warned that the excess weight is penalising their children who become more susceptible to disease and genetic problems.
Research has shown that poor parental diets cause higher markers of inflammation, which can lead to children developing type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and cancer, as well as their own problems with weight.
The Early Life Nutrition Coalition has released new diet recommendations, most notably that women lose weight a year before they get pregnant. The new guidelines are designed to try to reduce the incidence of diabetes and allergies, now that one in nine children have asthma, and anaphylaxis has increased fivefold.
The coalition’s chairperson, Professor Peter Davies, says parental nutrition is more critical than people appreciate.
“For many of these diseases, it’s not genes, but environmental factors and nutritional intake in the earliest stages of life that are most influential."
Fathers are also being advised to lose weight before conception since their nutrition can also affect the embryo. As well as causing problems for their children, overweight parents suffer reduced rates of conception and higher susceptibility for miscarriage
The good news, according to the coalition, is that making changes to our lifestyles and nutrition is easy, compared with the other factors that can affect fertility.
So what are the recommendations?
- Reduce excess weight prior to conception. Losing 5-10 per cent of body weight can have significant health benefits and women should seek advice from specialists. They also need to be supported by their partners.
- Maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle and monitor weight gain during pregnancy. It’s recommended that women with a BMI of over 30 should gain no more than 5-9kg during pregnancy.
- Take folic acid and iodine supplements and eat 2-3 servings of oily fish each week.
- Consume appropriate levels of other vitamins such as calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
- Eat common allergenic food such as peanuts during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.