Message to parents: Babies don't 'start from scratch'

Credit: Anna Langova/public domain

There's now overwhelming evidence that a child's future health is influenced by more than just their parents' genetic material, and that children born of unhealthy parents will already be pre-programmed for greater risk of poor health, according to University of Adelaide researchers.

In a feature paper called "Parenting from before conception" published in today's issue of the top international journal Science, researchers at the University's Robinson Research Institute say prior to conception have more influence on the child's future than previously thought.

"This really is a new frontier for reproductive and developmental research," says corresponding author and Director of the University's Robinson Research Institute, Professor Sarah Robertson.

"It's only been in the last 10 years that the science community has been seriously discussing these issues, and only in the last five years that we've begun to understand the mechanisms of how this is happening – with much of the work conducted right here at the University of Adelaide."

The paper concludes that parental influences on a child begin before conception, because stored environmental factors in the egg and sperm are contributing more than just to the child.

"Many things we do in the lead up to conceiving is having an impact on the future development of the child – from the age of the , to poor diet, obesity, smoking and many other factors, all of which influence environmental signals transmitted into the embryo," Professor Robertson says.

"People used to think that it didn't matter, because a child represented a new beginning, with a fresh start. The reality is, we can now say with great certainty that the child doesn't quite start from scratch – they already carry over a legacy of factors from their parents' experiences that can shape development in the fetus and after birth. Depending on the situation, we can give our children a burden before they've even started life."

This includes a higher risk of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The likelihood of conditions like anxiety and immune dysfunction can also be affected.

Professor Robertson says current research is also showing that the fathers have a much greater role to play in this than previously thought.

Professor Robertson says this news is not all doom and gloom for would-be parents. "A few lifestyle changes by potential parents and improvements in the right direction, especially in the months leading up to conception, could have a lasting, positive benefit for the future of their ," she says.

Explore further

Male-female communication at conception shapes the health of offspring, study says

More information: "Parenting from before conception" Science, … 1126/science.1254400
Journal information: Science

Citation: Message to parents: Babies don't 'start from scratch' (2014, August 14) retrieved 15 October 2019 from
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Aug 17, 2014
The worst sources aren't under our individual control. Just this year, our corporately-captured regulatory agencies raised the allowable amounts of antibiotics in meat, glyphosate (Round-Up) and pesticides in foods. BPA is still used, not just to coat cans and make drinking bottles -- a third of all US thermal receipt paper is coated with *milligrams* of the stuff, which soaks right through the skin. It's now coating our money as well.

These sources are the worst because they can't be eliminated from the human body. We pass our toxic burden to our babies, who add to it their lifetime exposure, and pass that onto their children. How many generations can we realistically do that?

Instead of reducing the use of such chemicals, use is increasing. It's very likely that shortly all chemicals (new or old) not known to be dangerous will be presumed GRAS, without any testing! Safety can't come from knowing the risks related chemicals pose -- we never tested most of the 80K chemicals we have.

Aug 17, 2014
(Glyphosate does not biopersist the way pesticides and other chlorinated chemicals do -- it's in the list because it's one of the many chemicals which had allowable limits in food (or other human exposure) raised this year, and I didn't want to create any confusion by not specifying this).

Re: BPA: While there is a chemical (BPS) used to replace BPA in cans, it appears it's actually more dangerous than is BPA. But using it allows them to say "BPA free", a sure draw for people with children or people who want to have them. Which is just the sort of thing the article is referring to -- chemical exposures we must avoid if we're to have healthy children who won't be getting cancer in their 20s. And males who are fertile; BPA is an environmental estrogen.

How easily can we citizens avoid a chemical that coats a third of all our receipts, lines our food cans, and was found on 100% of money samples tested?! Corporate America's greed is the biggest health threat to us all.

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