Starting early to make a lifetime of difference.
Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) research indicates that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the food a mother consumes before, during, and after pregnancy and the health of her baby. During the prenatal stage, nutrition choices can influence the child's health and food preferences well into adulthood. Early intervention is not only less costly than managing health issues in adulthood, it can result in a higher quality of life. Think of it as turning off a faucet instead of mopping the floor when the sink overflows. Read more about DOHaD, from the OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) and Portland State University School of Public Health.
The current and future health and wellbeing of both mother and child are impacted by dietary choices during preconception, pregnancy, and lactation. We focus on three time periods that are crucial to a baby's health and development: preconception (especially the three months prior to conception), pregnancy, and lactation (ideally exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months). These stages are critical windows of opportunity where nutrition choices can have long-lasting benefits and taste preferences begin to be established, potentially lessening the occurrence of health issues later in life.
Of the nearly 4,000 births in the US each year, about 45% of pregnancies are unplanned. As of 2015, only 45.1% of American women began pregnancy at a healthy weight, down from 47.3% in 2011 (a healthy weight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9). Additionally, nearly 50% of US births are covered by Medicaid. These combined challenges are often accompanied by poor nutrition, which can have a lasting impact on maternal and infant outcomes, and also appear to cause durable/permanent changes or increase the risk of chronic disease over the course of the child's lifetime.
We are committed to partnering with medical organizations to advance the knowledge, consumption, and enjoyment of plant-based whole foods for women of child-bearing age and pregnant women.
Where are we Investing
Pregnancy and Nutrition Conference – May 2019
OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness
$180,000 grant over two years
The Nutrition in Pregnancy conference was held in Washington D.C. May 2-3, 2019. The conference assembled 29 expert speakers who addressed the unique nutritional needs before and during pregnancy and lactation, and how those needs impact the lifelong health of mother and offspring. Based on this input a subgroup is now developing a consensus statement which is planned to be published late 2019 or early 2020. This information is intended to advance the science and identify keys areas for further research.
Advocacy and Education: 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines
We are currently collaborating with 1,000 Days, a leading non-profit organization working to improve nutrition for women and children during the first 1,000 days of life. Our shared goal is to educate and engage others in providing input and support for the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, which, for the first time, must address pregnant women and children from birth to 24 months old. This effort is in direct response to the rising incidence of childhood obesity and other nutrition-related health issues. More than 50% of toddlers and preschoolers drink at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day, and nearly 10% of toddlers show signs of being overweight or obese before they turn two. Additionally, 25% of children ages 1-2 are not receiving the daily recommended intake of iron – an important nutrient for brain development. These trends demonstrate the urgent need for improved nutrition guidance for pregnant women and young children.
What's on Our Radar
2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
For the first time ever the next version of the dietary guidelines are mandated to address pregnant woman. The process to develop these guidelines is underway and they should be released in late 2020 or early 2021. The process has four major steps:
- Topic and Question Identification – completed
- Advisory Committee Selection – completed
- Advisory Committee Scientific Review – currently underway
- USDA/HHS Dietary Guideline Development
The Vitamix Foundation is closely following this process and to ensure the guidelines are scientifically based and address all three of the critical prenatal periods (preconception, pregnancy and lactation). To learn more about the development of the new dietary guidelines go to https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/.
Increasing attention is being paid to efforts to improve preconception or interconception health (between pregnancies). These time periods serve as the foundation for optimum pregnancy outcomes. Women’s unhealthy behaviors before they become pregnant have been associated with many poor pregnancy and infant outcomes.
- National Preconception Health and Health Care (PCHHC) - is a public-private partnership of over 70 organizations focused on improving the health of young women and men and any children they may choose to have. The vision is that all women and men of reproductive age will achieve optimal health and wellness, fostering a healthy life course for them and any children they may have. PCHHC is coordinated by the Center for Maternal and Infant Health, housed within the School of Medicine at UNC at Chapel Hill. https://beforeandbeyond.org/
- The PCHHC Surveillance and Research Work Group - Preconception health is a constantly evolving field with new advancements and research; it can be hard to keep up! Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares bi-weekly updates on preconception and interconception health research. Abstracts are included for a quick read along with a full citation for those who want to learn more. To join please email Cheryl Robbins, at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Preconception Updates Please" in the subject line.
Worldwide, EarlyNutrition is the largest project investigating programming effects for health in later life.
Researchers from 35 institutions in 12 European countries, the United States, and Australia have joined forces to study how early nutrition programming and lifestyle factors impact the rates of obesity and related disorders.
The term "programming effect" refers to the finding that nutrition and lifestyle during pregnancy and infancy can affect a range of different bodily functions. These programmed changes in the body increase the likelihood of becoming overweight and the occurrence of associated diseases in later life. Such effects have been confirmed by earlier research by the FP6-funded Early Nutrition Programming project EARNEST.
Early Nutrition Academy (ENA)
- Foster nutrition research and its standards, in particular as it relates to nutrition in women of childbearing age, infants and children, including basic science, epidemiology and applied nutrition, as well as standards of nutrition practice
- Foster nutrition education
- Provide training in research skills
- Communicate research findings
- Foster implementation and dissemination of knowledge
- Help shape EU policy
- Help transfer knowledge and technology to commercial users
The Early Nutrition eAcademy (ENeA) is an e-learning co-operation initiated by the Early Nutrition Academy and the Dr. von Hauner Children's Hospital at the LMU Medical Center Munich. ENeA's aims is to provide CME accredited e-learning modules on topics in the area of early nutrition by translating the latest scientific findings from international research collaborations such as the European Union funded EARNEST and EarlyNutrition projects, and other co-operating initiatives, into practical application. The modules are created and peer-reviewed by leading international experts in the field.
In April 2018, The Lancet published a series on preconception health which included three articles. The executive summary of the series is as follows:
"Health and nutrition of both men and women before conception is important not only for pregnancy outcomes but also for the lifelong health of their children and even the next generation. The preconception period can be seen in three different ways: from a biological standpoint as the days and weeks before embryo development; from the individual perspective as the time of wanting to conceive; and through a population lens as any time a woman is of childbearing age. This Series of three papers highlights the importance and summarizes the evidence of preconception health for future health and suggests context-specific interventions. It also calls for a social movement to achieve political engagement for health in this particular phase in life."
These articles can be accessed free of charge by establishing a login with Lancet. The three articles are titled:
- Before the beginning: nutrition and lifestyle in the preconception period and its importance for future health
- Origins of lifetime health around the time of conception: causes and consequences
- Intervention strategies to improve nutrition and health behaviors before conception