Bacon Or No Bacon? Pregnant Women Get Different Diet Advice

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If you're pregnant, feel free to eat to lots of bacon and eggs. They're good for you. Plus, they'll help your baby's mental development.

Just stay away from foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Like bacon and eggs.

They can put your baby at risk of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, stroke, heart problems and a veritable Pandora's box of other medical conditions.

That's the slightly mixed message from the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The latest issue includes an article warning expectant mothers to watch their weight and avoid high-fat diets. Researchers from Duke University fattened up pregnant rats with such diets and found the baby rats had high amounts of dangerous substances known as cytokines.

That's bad.

However, just last month, the journal's Web site published a press release about a study with mice that concluded pregnant women who eat bacon, eggs and other foods high in a substance known as choline actually help their babies' mental development.

That's good.

"We may never be able to call bacon a health food with a straight face, but the emerging field of epigenetics is already making us rethink those things that we consider healthful and unhealthful," writes the journal's editor-in-chief Gerald Weissmann about last month's study.

Weissmann is research professor of medicine and the director of the Biotechnology Study Center at the New York University School of Medicine.

Pregnant rats and mice seem to have a slight disagreement when it comes to food.

Humans and rats have similar physiologies, Staci Bilbo, one of the latest study's lead researchers, reports in the journal. She's an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University in North Carolina.

The rats in the latest study definitely risk health problems later in life because of their overweight mothers, she argues.

"Our hope is also that these data will lead people to consider the consequences of their dietary intakes not only for their own health, but also for their children's health, and potentially even their grandchildren's health," she adds.

Nonetheless, researchers in the earlier study insist diets of meat (including pork), eggs and other traditional no-nos for weight-conscious women are good for newborn brains.

"Our study in mice indicates that the diet of a pregnant mother, especially choline in that diet, can change the epigenetic switches that control brain development in the fetus," Steven Zeisel, the senior scientist on the project, reports in the journal.

Zeisel is the Kenan Distinguished University Professor in the department of nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Whatever women eat while they're pregnant, Bilbo tells the journal, obese women should gain as little as 10 pounds during pregnancy. Packing on more pounds adds risks to the pregnancy and the health of the newborn, she adds.

The bottom line is watch what -- and how much -- you eat. It can affect your baby.

"Good prenatal nutrition is vitally important throughout a child's entire lifetime," Wiessman concludes.

Related: Pregnancy Superfoods

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.