Diet during the preconception period
Lifestyle in women has a tremendous impact on the growth, development and health of the descendants. Suboptimal conditions in the early stages of embryonic and fetal development have lifelong consequences on cardiovascular and metabolic health.
Lifestyle interventions during pregnancy have not shown the desired improvements in offspring health, suggesting that they were initiated after the most critical period of embryo and fetus development. Therefore, interventions during the preconception period could have a greater effect on the health of the offspring. However, very little is known about the association between dietary intake and physical activity during the preconception and the cardiovascular health of the offspring.
LIFEstyle conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT), which studied the effects of a preconceptional lifestyle intervention in overweight and obese infertile women. The 6-month intervention favorably changed the lifestyle, which resulted in weight reduction and improved cardiometabolic health at the end of the intervention period. During this time, women completed questionnaires on food intake and physical activity, giving us the unique opportunity to study the link between pre-conception lifestyle and the cardiovascular health outcomes of the descendants.
It has been hypothesized that women who have a healthier diet, ie higher consumption of vegetables and fruits and a lower intake of snacks and high calorie drinks, also have a lower BMI and lower blood pressure. As the literature suggests a positive effect of restoring energy balance by increasing physical activity, the combined effect of dietary intake and physical activity on the cardiovascular health of the offspring was further examined. Higher intake of vegetables before conception was associated with lower blood pressure values in offspring and higher intake of fruits, with lower PWV.
It seems that the intake of vegetables during the preconception period has a greater influence on the DBP in offspring, compared to the vegetable intake in late pregnancy, as the heart and fetal organs develop very early, and the beneficial effects of the preconceptional vegetable intake may affect optimally cardiovascular development.
Moreover, fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with CRP concentrations and higher levels of maternal CRP are associated with childhood adiposity. Moreover, a higher intake of antioxidants, when consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, may lead to more favorable cardiovascular health in the offspring.
Lastly, it has been found that an increased consumption of sugary drinks before conception is associated with a higher mass of fats in the offspring. Fruit and vegetable juices seem to affect the cardiometabolic health of women favorably, which may explain the more favorable body composition of the descendants.
The bottom line is that dietary intake in the preconception period (for women with infertility) is closely linked to offspring health, and higher intake of vegetables and fruits before conception is associated with better cardiovascular health in offspring.