A nutrient-dense, whole foods diet is critical to the health of an expectant mother and the fetal programming for her offspring for life. A healthy diet needs fresh and vibrant foods with a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, healthy fats with omega-3 fatty acids that include nuts and seeds, and fish. This is in place of processed foods, sugars and sweeteners.

Sugar, when stripped of fibre and concentrated and consumed in quantities greater than 5-10g (1-2 teaspoons) a day, has detrimental impacts not only on the mother’s pregnancy outcomes but the microbiome and fetal brain programming for life. Most consumer soft drink have 25-35g in a single can. Check the labels! Excessive consumption of fructose alone can damage the liver, lead to inflammation in the nervous system, microglial overactivation (part of the brain’s immune system), and toxic damage to cells from oxidative stress. There are many forms of processed sugar and it is often hidden in processed, packaged and “fast” foods which are so prevalent in society today. High sugar and processed food diets affect egg and sperm quality, metabolism, weight control, reward centres, cognitive function and more!

Egg and Sperm Quality

Dad and mom’s sugar intake before and during pregnancy negatively affects health of both the egg and sperm. It is not all to blame on the mom’s diet and health. Dad’s diet counts too! Especially in the 90 days ahead of conception when the sperm is prepared for action. Females make their eggs while in utero; eggs are made in a female when she is knit together in her mother’s womb.

Pregnancy Outcome

There is now evidence that sugar and sugar alternatives consumed during pregnancy contribute to increased gestational weight gain and the development of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and preterm birth.

Obesity and Metabolic Concerns

Both mom and dad’s intake of processed foods and high sugar diet impacts neonatal and childhood metabolism, taste perception and obesity risk. Additionally, maternal metabolic diseases promoted by high sugar/ high processed food diets in pregnancy and lactation, can be transferred to offspring. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults (18 years and older) were overweight, and over 650 million of them, mainly women were obese.

Skin and Asthma

Regardless of how much sugar the child has in early life, the high intake of sugar their mom may have had when pregnant with them, lends to increased risk of eczema and skin rashes and atopic asthma.

Addictions and Brain Health

Sugar consumption is also linked to the child’s preference for sweet foods, food and other addiction. Sugar is actually 8x more addictive than cocaine. If it does it in adults, think of how it changes the developing brain in the fetus. As it wires the brain’s reward system, the high sugar maternal diet impacts neural and behavioural disturbances and has potential to lay the grounds for substance use disorder (SUD) and several emotional behavioural disturbances including cognitive and memory impairment, impulsive behaviour, stress, fear, anxiety and depression. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases can result from a diet rich in added sugars.

Learn more in this conversation with New Zealand’s midwife, Kathy Fray and Canadian Naturopathic Doctor, Laura Brown.