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DON'T RESTRICT FOOD DURING PREGNANCY

No woman should ever severely restrict food during her pregnancy, no matter how much she weighs when she gets pregnant. All obstetricians recommend that a woman gain at least 20 pounds during her pregnancy, even if she weighs 300 pounds when she becomes pregnant.

In 1988, David Barker of the University of Southampton in England noticed that at the start of the twentieth century, poor areas of England had a very high incidence of newborn babies dying and those that survived had a very high incidence of heart attacks later in life. He noticed that babies born to very poor women were small at birth. He concluded that when a mother is deprived of food during her pregnancy, she gives birth to babies who are small at birth, and those who survive are at high risk for heart attacks many years later when they become adults.

Further research shows that small newborns from big parents are more likely to die in infancy than small babies from small parents. A baby who should have been born at 9 pounds because of big parents, but weights only 5 pounds at birth, is the one most likely to die and be sickly. A five pound baby whose parents were small was supposed to be about five pounds. So babies that are small because they are deprived of food in the uterus are the ones most likely to die in infancy and suffer heart attacks later in life.

Then a study from the Amsterdam famine of 1942 showed that babies who are deprived of food in the first three months of pregnancy are the ones most likely to suffer heart attacks as adults. However, a study from the Stalingrad famine of 1942 showed that babies deprived of food in the uterus who do not become fat later in life are not at increased risk for heart attacks later on. The Amsterdam babies had lots of food throughout their childhoods, while the Stalingrad babies continued to be starved for their entire childhoods because of the slow recovery of the Russian economy after World War II. The Amsterdam babies suffered heart attacks as adults, while the Stalingrad babies did not.

Studies in the Philippines show that depriving a baby of food in the uterus causes him or her to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol later in life. We've established that when a baby is deprived of food in the uterus and is given lots of food later on, he or she is at great risk for a heart attack. On the other hand, if a baby is starved in uterus and is not given lots of food later on, his risk for a heart attack is not increased. Now we have to explain how depriving a baby of food in the uterus and overfeeding him during childhood causes heart attacks.

There is a huge body of research showing that starvation in the uterus shunts blood to the brain and away from the other organs, causing a baby to be born with small liver, pancreas, kidneys and so forth. These organs do not function as well and when these babies are given too much food later on, they have higher than normal levels of insulin and other hormones that constrict arteries to cause heart attacks. These babies have smaller kidneys which may not be able to function as well, so when they don't get enough oxygen, produce too much renin that also constricts arteries to cause high blood pressure. High levels of insulin constrict arteries and cause heart attacks.

So all women should gain at least 20 pounds when they are pregnant. If unborn babies do not get enough calories in the uterus, they shunt all their calories to the brain and away from other organs in their bodies. They have small livers and kidneys. Small livers cannot remove insulin after meals, causing high insulin levels that constrict arteries and cause heart attacks. Small kidneys release chemicals into the bloodstream that constrict arteries to cause high blood pressure, and strokes.

Checked 5/3/07

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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