Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is important, not only for the mother for also for the baby. A mother’s good nutrition doesn’t just ensure a child is likely to be healthy at birth. A new study shows that a maternal diet adequate in manganese and selenium may decrease a child’s risk for developing high blood pressure later in life.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure (HBP), is a common condition that is seen in about half of U.S. adults over the age of 20. About 1 in 25 children have high blood pressure. Sometimes HBP is caused by underlying medical conditions, sometimes the cause is simply unknown, but often it’s due to excess weight, poor nutrition or an inactive lifestyle. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s disease and other medical conditions.
Some children are predisposed to high blood pressure beginning early in life, even before birth, suggests past research, but protection from it can also start early.
Children whose mothers had higher levels of manganese and selenium in their blood during pregnancy had a decreased risk of high blood pressure.
Children’s blood pressure readings were taken at ages ranging from three to 15 years. The readings were compared to levels of the heavy metals known to increase blood pressure — lead, mercury and cadmium — in their mother’s blood. (It is worth noting that lead, cadmium and mercury have also been found in baby food.) Mothers’ blood levels of manganese and selenium, trace minerals linked to lower blood pressure, were also compared to the children’s blood pressure numbers.
Children whose mothers had higher levels of manganese and selenium in their blood during pregnancy had a decreased risk of high blood pressure. Adequate manganese appeared to counter high blood pressure even in the presence of high levels of a metal like cadmium, known to raise blood pressure. This finding was particularly strong among children whose mothers smoked while they were pregnant.
The findings are clear evidence of the way good nutrition can help offset environmental exposures in the womb, particularly when it comes to cardiovascular health. “…[H]ealthy levels of selenium and manganese in mothers' diets during pregnancy may protect their children against developing high blood pressure,” researcher, Noel Mueller, of the Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology, said in a statement about the study.
The best way to make sure you are getting enough manganese is to eat plenty of whole grains, leafy green vegetables, legumes, shellfish and nuts.
The study is published in Environmental Health Perspectives.