Effects of Healthy nutrition on Fetus

ln utero, a developing baby is completely dependent upon his mother for sustenance. The nutrients he receives from her fuel every aspect of his growth and development. Poor maternal nutrition can have devastating effects on those developmental processes, ranging from physical malformations to cognitive deficiencies. In some circumstances, the effects of poor maternal nutrition on prenatal development can be mitigated by targeted health care after birth. However, for many children, the developmental consequences of prenatal nutritional deficiencies can last a lifetime.

Poor nutrition can result in slowed or limited development of the physical structure of the brain, potentially impairing cognitive functioning. Chronic maternal malnourishment resulting in protein deficiency is associated with smaller brain size, according to " Nutrition and the Developing Brain: Nutrient Priorities and Measurement, "a 2007 article by Michael K Georgieff, of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Development at University of Minnesota School of Medicine, published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." ln addition to affecting the physical structure of the brain , deficiencies in such nutrients as vitamins A and C, zinc, iron and copper, can disrupt the proper functioning of the brain , including how the brain stores and utilizes information.

The placenta nourishes and oxygenates the developing fetus. Poor maternal nutrition is associated with placental malformations and reduced placental functioning. If the development of the placenta and its complex vascular network is restricted, fetal development will also be restricted, its growth limited to what the sub-optimal placental functioning can support. Low birth-weight babies are a common result of a placenta that isn't developed sufficiently or functioning well enough. More serious placental defects, such as a placental abruption, can result in the death of the fetus.

The balance of dietary nutrients is also important in ensuring normal fetal development. Each day, a pregnant woman should consume at least 71 grams of protein and 175 grams of carbohydrate. She should also consume about 13 grams of healthy fats such as oils derived from plants, along with a moderate amount of other fats. A diet poor in protein can be especially damaging to fetal brain development. according to many research studies on animals. In a landmark study published in August 1999 in "The Journal of Nutrition." researchers found that laboratory animals fed a normal calorie but low-protein diet during pregnancy and nursing had offspring with poor blood vessel development in their brains, compared to those of normally fed mothers. These animals also had reduced brain DNA content and lower brain weight as adults.

It's also extremely important to get enough vitamins and minerals during pregnancy to help ensure normal fetal development. Although it's difficult to associate a particular vitamin deficiency with a fetal problem in humans, laboratory studies on animals have given many clues to their importance. Low vitamin C could cause abnormal heart development, while low vitamin A may slow cell division in general and interfere with lung, liver and heart development. Deficiency in vitamin D can slow general growth and development of bones in fetuses, while low intake of vitamin K could interfere with development of the face and teeth and with mineral deposition in fetal bones. Fetuses also need all of the B vitamins, but one of these, folate. is especially important. Low folate levels may cause spina bifida, a condition in which development of the fetal spinal cord and vertebral column is abnormal. Minerals such as calcium, iron. zinc and iodine are also crucial for both the fetus and the mother, helping ensure a normal pregnancy and healthy full-term baby.

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