My mother-in-law sent me a newspaper article the other day about a prominent nutritionist at Louisiana State University (that would be the team that Alabama beat on January 9 to win the National Championship!).
Her name is Melinda Sothern, PhD, and the article told about a theory she has developed that she believes explains how today's obesity epidemic began.
Disastrous advice for pregnant women?
Briefly, Sothern thinks that obesity can be tracked to the obstetrical practices of the 1950s and 1960s. During those decades, pregnant women were told to greatly limit their weight gain (to 20 pounds or less), to smoke cigarettes to control weight gain, and to bottle-feed their babies.
She points out that each of these guidelines was a disaster because
babies who don't get enough nourishment in utero compensate by eating excessively as infants
nicotine interferes with the brain pathways that control appetite, metabolic rate, and fat storage; babies of smoking mothers were nicotine recipients in utero
bottle-feeding is more likely to lead to overweight infants than is breastfeeding
Throw in the evolution of fast food today and, says Sothern, it all resulted in a lot of obese little girls during the 1970s, which became obese mothers and obese pregnant women.
More diabetes, more obese babies
Sothern then points out that obese women are more likely to have diabetes, and that women with diabetes are more likely to give birth to babies who are obese. She advocates breaking this vicious cycle now.
How to break this (theoretical) cycle of obesity?
Here are the permissible ranges of weight gain recommended by today's health care providers, once a woman becomes pregnant, in terms of her pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI):
If a woman is underweight (BMI less than 18.5) before she becomes pregnant, then she may gain between 28 and 40 pounds during her pregnancy.
If she is normal weight (18.5 –24.9 BMI) before she becomes pregnant, she may gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy.
If she is overweight (25.0 –29.9 BMI), she may gain between 15 and 25 pounds during pregnancy.
If she is obese (BMI equal or greater than 30.0), she may gain between 11 and 20 pounds during pregnancy.
As long as we're on the subject of good behaviors for pregnant women . . .
Certainly, smoking during pregnancy is never recommended, and it's of course better not to smoke at all, pregnant or not. But if you do smoke, please stop smoking during your pregnancy.
Also, if you are able to breastfeed, please do so; it is the best option for the baby. The U.S. Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin (who happens to hail from my hometown of Mobile, Alabama), has set a plan in motion to increase the number of babies that are breastfed for at least 6 months.
And mind what you eat. Fortunately, even today's fast-food restaurants are offering a lot of healthy options on their menus--choose wisely when ordering for yourself and your children.
Can we blame it all on the past?
In a crisis, it's never wise to say that something is our parent's fault, and then ignore our own role in the matter. So, eat healthy and follow the recommendations for a healthy pregnancy--at least that way your children won't be able to say it's your fault. (But don't worry, they'll find something else.)