The latest ELN findings
Early life nutrition

Another month, another round of findings from the Early Life Nutrition researchers. This month they've been focusing on  fluoride, folate and gut flora...

You might be thinking Oh God, what do I need to learn about now? But you'll find upon reading these results, a lot of it is confirming and reinforcing the healthy eating habits we all already know we should be following.

For instance, we all know that we should take folate during pregnancy, but did you know that doing so could prevent your child from developing asthma?

1. The link between folate and asthma

There are six nutrients known as ‘methyl donors‘ and researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston discovered that when women consume these donors along with folate during their first trimester of pregnancy, their children had reduced risks of developing asthma at age seven.

So instead of previously suspected claims that folate increased the risk of asthma, we now know that it could actually help prevent it when taken in combination with choline, betaine and vitamins B2, B6 and B12.

2. Fluoride in water and lower IQ

Alright, this is a tricky one as most people seem to be strongly in the pro-fluoride or anti-fluoride camps, but according to research conducted right here in NZ, you can file the “fluoride makes kids dumb” theory under urban legend once and for all. The University of Otago ran the research as part of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study, and it has finally disproved the claim that fluoridating drinking water affects children’s mental development and results in lower adult IQ. In addition to this finding, the researchers confirmed the finding from other studies that breastfeeding is associated with higher IQ in children.

3. Breastfeeding promotes beneficial bacteria in babies’ guts

Again, this is a reinforcing-what-you-already-knew statement. Of course breastfeeding is great for babies' gut health, but this study goes as far as saying that breastfeeding is the single most important factor influencing the healthy development of a baby’s intestinal flora. This one comes all the way from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen. they found that breast milk encourages the growth of good bacteria in the gut and has a positive effect on the development of the immune system. This could explain why breastfed babies have a somewhat lower rate of obesity, diabetes, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease later on.

4. Heavily breastfed babies lacking dietary diversity

This one is likely to turn some heads. While the benefits of breastfeeding have been extensively demonstrated, a Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study has found that three out of four babies that are heavily breastfed after the age of six months aren’t getting the dietary diversity they need. The most surprising finding was that a greater number of babies in Cincinnati than in lower-income Mexico City lacked the necessary range of nutrients between six and 12 months. This led the researchers to conclude that more education might be necessary to explain the importance of offering at least four food groups a day after six months.

5. Abstain from alcohol three months before conceiving

Alcohol consumption one month before conception and in the first trimester of pregnancy is associated with a birth defect of the abdominal wall known as gastroschisis, according to a study by Loyola University Health System. Generally detected by ultrasound, gastroschisis in babies requires surgery at birth. Because alcohol use at this time is also associated with mental delays, facial clefting and cardiac abnormalities, the researchers suggest abstaining from alcohol three months before conceiving.

This article was written by Sabrina Rogers-Anderson and adapted for Kidpsot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.
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