Food for Thought

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The veggies have it – again
Healthy eating is one of the best gifts a mother-to-be can give her growing baby says dietitian Kaye Foster-Powell in her Low GI Family Cookbook. ‘We shape our children’s health and wellbeing from the moment they are conceived. What a woman eats when she is pregnant influences her baby’s health in many ways. The nourishment her baby receives in the womb shapes how its body grows. The flavours of the foods she eats can play a part in her child’s later food preferences, and her baby’s birth weight can predict the risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease later in life.’

A new study published in Pediatric Diabetes reinforces the healthy eating message revealing the results of a Swedish study that suggest that pregnant women who eat vegetables every day seem to have children who are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes.

‘This is the first study to show a link between vegetable intake during pregnancy and the risk of the child subsequently developing type 1 diabetes, but more studies of various kinds will be needed before we can say anything definitive,’ says lead author and clinical nutritionist Hilde Brekke from the Sahlgrenska Academy.

Hilde Brekke
Hilde Brekke

The researchers analysed blood samples from 5724 five year-olds in the study. In type 1 diabetes, certain cells in the pancreas gradually get worse at producing insulin, leading to insulin deficiency. Children at risk of developing type 1 diabetes have antibodies in their blood which attack these insulin-producing cells.

Of the children tested, 3% (191 children) had either elevated levels of these antibodies or had fully developed type 1 diabetes at the age of five. These risk markers were up to twice as common in children whose mothers rarely ate vegetables during pregnancy. The risk was lowest among children whose mothers stated that they ate vegetables every day.

Applying the term ‘vegetables’ to all vegetables except for root vegetables, the researchers looked at the mothers’ (self reported) daily consumption of veggies. The most frequently consumed vegetables in Sweden between 1996–99, when the data was originally collected, were tomatoes, cabbage, onions, lettuce and cucumbers.


‘We cannot say with certainty on the basis of this study that it’s the vegetables themselves that have this protective effect, but other factors related to vegetable intake, such as the mother’s standard of education, do not seem to explain the link,’ says Brekke. ‘Nor can this protection be explained by other measured dietary factors or other known risk factors.’

For a delicious way to up your veggie intake, tuck into Johanna Burani’s ‘Baked Belgian Endive’ recipe (see GI News Kitchen in this issue).