Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Attack on obesity starts before life

The focus on maternal and newborn nutrition is a policy based partly on research by Sir Peter Gluckman's Liggins Institute. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The focus on maternal and newborn nutrition is a policy based partly on research by Sir Peter Gluckman's Liggins Institute. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Government's plan of attack for reducing obesity begins before a child is born, or even conceived.

Health Minister Tony Ryall has instructed the ministry to focus on maternal and newborn nutrition, a policy which is based partly on research by Sir Peter Gluckman's Liggins Institute.

The institute contributed to studies which found that a pregnant mother's diet could alter her future child's DNA, potentially determining whether they will grow up to be obese.

This meant that pregnant women who had a diet which was high in fat or fructose - an ingredient found in fizzy drinks - could increase the likelihood of their child becoming obese. An embryo, fetus or infant could take cues from its environment to set patterns of metabolism or energy use in later life.

The institute found a mother's eating habits before or at the time of conception could also influence the child's health.

These findings influenced a reprioritisation of ministry funding into maternal and newborn nutrition and physical activity. New nutrition programmes for mothers, babies, infants and pre-schoolers will begin in July.

The policy is not without controversy, because it redirected funding previously allocated to healthy eating programmes, which some experts felt should be reinstated.

- NZ Herald

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