Can the Wrong Pre-Pregnancy Diet Give Your Baby Diabetes?

You know that it's incredibly important that you eat well when your pregnant, as healthy food is essential to baby's growth—but this news might surprise you.

Can the Wrong Pre-Pregnancy Diet Give Your Baby Diabetes? solominviktor/Shutterstock

Turns out your baby really is what you eat—and not just while you're pregnant, but before she's even a tiny twinkle in your eye.

The info you pass on

In a recent study, obese mice with type two diabetes were found to have inherited information about what their parents ate, which was having an impact on their health. This indicates that it's not just what you eat while pregnant or what you feed your child that can influence his future wellbeing, but also what you ate before conception.

It's previously been found that babies are influenced by what their fathers eat while trying to conceive—and it appears the same applies to women: It's not just about what you eat when you're actually carrying the child.

"The results showed that both oocytes and sperm passed on epigenetic information, which particularly in the female offspring led to severe obesity," the study's director, Johannes Beckers, said in a release. "In the male offspring, by contrast, the blood glucose level was more affected than in the female siblings. The data also show that—like in humans—the maternal contribution to the change in metabolism in the offspring is greater than the paternal contribution."

Contributing to an epidemic

According to the researchers, the increase in cases of diabetes can't just be explained by gene mutations—it likely has something to do with epigenetic inheritance, which is the belief that parents don't just pass genes to their offspring through DNA code, but also information about their life experiences. "This kind of epigenetic inheritance of a metabolic disorder due to an unhealthy diet could be another major cause for the dramatic global increase in the prevalence of diabetes since the 1960s," Martin Hrab de Angelis, initiator of the study, said.

So what can you do to minimize your child's risk of diabetes before you're even pregnant? Watch your diet, for one thing. Nutrition expert Dawn Lerman weighed in with a bit of advice. "The food choices we make on a daily basis contribute to our risk of developing type 2 diabetes," she said. "With every bite we take we either nourish ourselves or deplete ourselves. Avoiding certain foods, such as refined carbs, sugary drinks, trans fats and processed meats, and adding whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts and coconut oil can greatly improve kids' health."

According to Lerman, white flour, sugary drinks, processed red meat and trans fats can contribute to diabetes risk, so it's a safe bet to cut down before you try to conceive.