I have recommended the book Raising Baby Green on this blog, and now the author, pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, has recently released another similar book called Feeding Baby Green. Even if you’re not pregnant or don’t have babies, this is a fascinating book on food and feeding children. Dr. Greene theorizes that the reason so many children today love bland, processed food is that they’ve been raised on bland, flavorless baby food. For thousands of years, babies have eaten what mom and dad eat, just mashed up and in smaller amounts. But for the past 50 years in the U.S., our babies eat jars of perfectly pureed baby food with unnecessary additives (fillers, salt, and sugar). No wonder our children don’t want to eat much more than mac and cheese, pizza, or fries.
Dr. Greene also talks about some new interesting research that suggests that a baby in utero can taste the foods its mother is eating through the amniotic fluid. I have heard that baby can taste flavors in mother’s breast milk depending on what she ate. But I didn’t know that baby actually drank amniotic fluid for nutrition (it contains protein!) and that the amniotic fluid can be flavored by what mom recently ate. A study gave mothers carrot juice for 4 weeks during the pregnancy (total of 3.5 liters of carrot juice), while a control group drank water, and found that the baby’s whose mother had drank carrot juice much preferred carrots at 6 months of age to the control group. Amazing! That certainly suggests that mom can have a powerful influence over baby’s food preferences by what she eats when she’s pregnant.
A few other great pieces of information from the book:
- A 2008 analysis has shown that by choosing organic produce across the board, you can slash pesticide exposure from food by 97%. You can also greatly reduce pesticide exposure by choosing domestic produce in season.
- A 2008 study of pregnant and nursing animals gave half of the mothers a balanced selection of healthy foods during pregnancy and nursing. The other half had some healthy food, plus access to high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt treats such as candy, cheese, chocolate, cookies, crackers, donuts, and potato chips. These mothers ate a lot of the junk food. Once their offspring were born and weaned, they all had free access to both the healthy and the junk food. The offspring were followed into adulthood. It was found that as young adults, those whose mothers had the healthy diet during pregnancy and nursing were significantly more likely to have normal weight, blood sugar, insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol than the other children–even though all the offspring were offered the same diets after weaning. The researchers hypothesized that the mother’s diet during pregnancy and nursing had the ability to turn on or off at least ten different genes that change metabolism, appetite, weight, and health. Part of the effect could also be explained by variations in the offspring’s food preferences. The conclusion is that the mothers’ healthy diet, during the very early stages of development, had programmed the offspring for health.
- Babies have more taste buds before birth than at any time in their life, perhaps so that they can form an imprint of Mom’s food culture even before birth. Babies drink and digest the equivalent of up to three 8-oz bottles each day of amniotic fluid. The fluid is flavored by what Mom has been eating and drinking.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics made this statement in 2006: “Both amniotic fluid and breast milk provide flavor exposure to the fetus and infant. These exposures influence taste preference and food choices after weaning. Thus, exposure to healthier foods through maternal food consumption during pregnancy and lactation may improve acceptance of healthy foods after weaning. Because infant responses to taste are different from mature taste, these early exposures may be critical to determining food preference later in life.”
- The Italian government’s National Institute of Research on Food and Nutrition published a study in 2008 comparing mice fed corn with and without genetic modification. The two types of corn were grown at the same time in two neighboring fields in Italy. Everything about the two sets of mice was the same, expect that one set was fed genetically modified (GM) corn (a variety common in the U.S.) starting as pups. The GMO-fed mice had altered levels of immune T and B cells in their guts, spleens, and blood. They have elevated inflammation triggers (cytokines) in their blood. Their allergy and inflammatory systems were revved up. This effect was significant. It was also seen in a group of mice that were fed GM foods when they were older, although the effect was more pronounced in mice that had started GM foods as pups. At the time this report was published, the Austrian government showed that this same GM corn reduces fertility in the offspring of those who eat it.
- Most Americans believe they have never eaten GM foods, but most eat them every day. Thirty percent of American crops are now genetically modified. Most soy, corn, conola, cottonseed oil, and papaya in the U.S. have been genetically modified. Much of our livestock are fed these GM foods. The best way to avoid GM foods is to eat organic and to cut down on consumption of foods containing corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn meal, dextrose, maltodextrin, corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, unspecified vegetable oil, soybean oil, soy protein, soy lecithin, or textured vegetable protein.
- In Europe, Mars, Kraft, Kellogg’s, and McDonalds have removed artificial dyes from M&M’s, Skittles, Starbursts, Lunchables, cereal, Pop-Tarts, and milkshakes. But not in the U.S. Here they use artificial dyes.
- Babies under the age of two have can BPA levels in their blood eleven times higher than that of adults who were exposed to the same amount.