“There is no a lapse of time more crucial and important in the life of a
human being in which the mother has in her hands and chooses the
opportunity to influence positively (or negatively as well) in the formation
of the structure of the brain of her baby and therefore to directly influence
his/her future intelligence and IQ during the period of the pregnancy”
Chapter 8 - NUTRITION OF THE MOTHER DURING PREGNANCY
8.1 – Introduction – Nutrition and a Fit Mom
It is proven by studies that babies born to mothers who had, during their pregnancy,
poor diets deficient in minerals, vitamins, fats and other essential nutrients for brain
developing, may have some forms of mental retardation, low IQ, psychomotor
problems and / or behavior problems. At this point, the question for the mother
seems to be:
||As a prospective mom, are you willing to "sacrifice" temporarily your
favorite figure, and to eat selectively the recommended nutritious foods
that your baby needs, but it could be something that you are not crazy
about, as fresh fruits, seafood, vitamins and so on during your pregnancy,
to take the best chance of having a healthy and intelligent baby?
You should note that pregnancy is a temporary condition (but not a disease), and
that overweight of a few pounds would disappear later with a proper exercise plan,
which may cost you some effort and time. By comparing to having a healthy baby
with higher intelligence and IQ that is priceless, your effort and time will be well
A prospective mom should understand that brain development begins in the first
several weeks after the magic moment of conception. Most of the structural features
of the brain appear during the embryonic period over the first 8 weeks after
fertilization, and these structures continue to grow and develop during the fetal
period of gestation. From week 10 to 18, the brain begins to grow rapidly, so it is
important that the mother is fed with nutritious foods in these times.
The brain of a baby is composed of 60% of fat in which 25% is omega-6 and omega-
3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids, including EPA, DHA, DGLA and AA, are important
not only during infancy but throughout the whole life.
From the point of view of nature, there are two reproductive behaviors that
differentiate humans from other mammalian species: sex and food. While other
species of mammals aim at sex almost solely for reproduction and conservation of
the species, human being is the only species that practices sexual act not only for
reproduction, but in most cases, for satisfaction and fun. And many times a woman's
pregnancy is the result of pursuit of satisfaction and fun, but not the result of planed
The other behavior that distinguishes humans from other mammalian species is food.
While feeding behaviors of other species aims at survival and preservation, human
beings have the capability to think about their choices, and the resources available
for them to choose the type of food that they want based on their cultural, economic
and social backgrounds.
In nature, for example, a bear mom knows naturally that she must find and consume
food during her gestation. She receives this information through her genetic
inheritance or DNA, and she applies it in the best way to help her teddy baby to be in
the best physical condition possible. The bear mom will defend her territory, her
foods to achieve a healthy and strong baby without regards of how much additional
weight she would gain during pregnancy. The goal of the bear nature is bringing in a
new and strong teddy baby and continuing of the species. The maternal behavior can
be observed generally in any other species of mammals, birds, fishes, and others.
Things are very different in the case of human being, and it has been a prevalent
trend that women tend to maintain a figure closer to a popular model as thin and
anorexic as possible based on their aesthetic and social needs, instead of considering
the natural needs of feeding themselves to achieve physically and mentally healthy
babies. The nature in pregnancy and motherhood has been changed in recent years,
with a new attitude in minds of many women that is not only going towards the
opposite of human evolution, but also in many cases, jeopardizing the health and
cognitive ability of our future generations.
You should have enough reasons to believe that there are always many ways to keep
your diets healthy and nutritious without gaining too much weight of yourself. Simply
look at those Hollywood star moms, and every one of them went through pregnancy
with a healthy and high IQ baby, as well as a fit body. All you need to do is to follow
certain rules of pregnancy nutrition guides, which are the main content of this
chapter, and treat yourself with the right food diets for your baby and for keeping
your body in shape.
In general, pregnancy requires more nutrition than before, because your diets now
are supplying for two, but not just one anymore, and the new body in you is growing
in a fastest speed. The principle is that you need more proteins and other nutrients
like vitamins, minerals; sugar and fat are also required but in limited amounts; and
good sources of proteins are seafood, chicken and egg. If you keep this principle in
mind, and avoid over-taking in high cal, high sugar and high animal fat, you will be
safe from obesity.
It is recommended by obstetricians that you should gain about 25 ~ 35 pounds
during pregnancy, which should be 20% weight gain in the first trimester, 40% in the
second trimester, and the other 40% in the third trimester. But too much weight gain
may lead to an obese you or your baby that is not good for either of you, and a fatty
baby will not only make it difficult for delivery, but also is risky for the brain and IQ.
On the other hand, not gaining enough weight will result in baby with lower birth
weight and lower IQ that is not what you want either.
A healthy diet will ensure you to have a healthy baby, and insufficient essential
nutrition will increase the chances of premature and undernourished baby. You should
have a well-balanced diet with multivitamin and multimineral supplements, because
prenatal supplement or called prenatal vitamins approved by your obstetrician helps
to maintain your own health, to reduce the risk of birth defects, and to fulfill the goal
to have an IQ baby. Foods are introduced but not limited to those beneficial for brain and IQ
developments in this Chapter for your references. Among them, seafood and vitamin
B-complex are some of the most important nutrients for the brain, and other
nutrients like iodine, copper and iron are also introduced.
8.2 - Fishes and other Seafood
Fishes and other seafood are considered to be one of the healthiest food components
for a pregnant you, because of the rich fish oil and other necessary nutrients they
contain like proteins, iron and zinc; and most importantly the omega-3 fatty acids
that can promote brain development.
The intake amount of seafood for pregnant women is 8 ~ 12 ounces or 340 grams, or
about two meals per week, as recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration
(FDA). The recommended amount is enough for keeping the health of your baby, but
if you want to eat seafood for the purpose of enhancing the brain IQ of your baby,
you may intake a bit more because scientific researches confirm that there is no
negative effect when pregnant women consumed a bit more than the FDA
recommended amount of seafood.
What type of seafood will be safe to eat? Variety is the key, because each type of
seafood contains different nutrients, and multiple types of seafood that is low in
mercury and high in omega-3 tatty acids will be better choices. Examples of healthy
seafood include salmon, trout, Atlantic and Pacific mackerel, sardines, herring and
anchovies are good fishes; and shrimps, Pollock, catfish and tuna are also
Some rules are applied when eating seafood, and uncooked fish and shellfish should
be avoided to reduce the chance of contacting bacteria and viruses. Uncooked fish
like sushi and sashimi, oyster, refrigerated kippered or smoked, and any other
uncooked seafood should all be avoided for safety concern.
All seafood should be cooked thoroughly before eating, and they should be cooked
until the internal temperature reached 145°F or 63°C. Fishes are normally well
cooked when looked opaque or separated to flakes, and shrimps, lobsters and
scallops looked milky white. Not fully cooked fishes may still contain harmful
microorganisms and can be dangerous for you and your baby, and thus should be
avoided. Understanding about your local seafood advisories are also very important,
and follow the advisories online will help you to stay healthy while taking seafood.
Why omega-3 tatty acids especially Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is
beneficial for pregnant women like you?
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is
one of the primary structural components of human brain. DHA is considered
required nutrition for brain and IQ development, and it will also benefit other nervous
functions, heart health, anti-infection, anti-cancer, and even longevity. DHA is so
important to the brain and eye developments thus it is included in most infant
Cold-water oceanic fishes are rich in DHA nutrients, but you may get DHA from other
sources. Ground seeds and oil from flaxseed, walnut, sunflower seed, pinenut and
soybean are rich in DHA omega-3 fatty acids; fortified foods like milk, yogurt and egg
are also good sources; supplements containing omega-3 can be taken in as
replacements. But doctor’s advisory is required before taking any supplements.
You need to keep in mind that not all seafood is good for you, particularly those
larger predators like shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish, may contain
mercury and other toxic chemicals accumulated in their bodies and can be harmful to
your baby. Avoid eating bigger fishes and any shells are wise choices that will reduce
the risk of being poisoned by heavy metal toxins and other chemicals.
benefits from fish oil include IQ improvement, nervous system promotion, eye
and hand coordination improvement, and immune system development. In case you
don’t like seafood, you can choose fish oil as supplement to compensate the needs.
8.3 - Vitamin B-complex especially Folic Acid
is not one single vitamin but a complex of multiple vitamins including B1
(thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9
(folic acid) and B12. Overall, the B-complex, including folic acid, is essential for fetal
development, especially during the first month of gestation, and can help the body to
produce energy and to form blood cells. If the B-complex vitamins can be taken
before and after pregnancy, they can enhance the possibility of conception and assist
fetus development in womb.
Specifically, Vitamin B1, B3 and B12 are required for the developments of the brai
the nervous system, and other organs like the muscle, the heart and the digestive
system; B2 helps for baby growth; B5 is required for baby growth, development,
blood cell formation, and thus prevent anemia; B6 helps for conceiving, preventing
early miscarriage and birth defects, and supporting the immune system; B7 assists
the production of hormones; and B9 has its critical functions in pregnancy and will be
discussed in later volume as follows. Vitamin B6 can reduce nausea.
It is called morning sickness, but you may find
that it happens at any time. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists (ACOG), taking supplement of vitamin B6 is confirmed by research
that is safe, and effective in reducing nausea and vomiting. And thus it should be
considered as the first choice for treating pregnancy related nausea. In addition,
vitamin B6 is also found that it is needed for conception, and prevention of early
miscarriage in pregnant women. Vitamin B12 may decrease the chance of congenital heart problem.
pregnant women with genetic defects, if deficiency of B12 happens during conception
and early pregnancy, it increases the chance that the fetus may carry a congenital
heart defect. In case this is your situation, you need to consult your obstetrician for
further advises and helps. Vitamin 9 or folic Acid is particularly important for pregnancy.
the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), if you take 400 microgram of folic acid daily
for three months or at least for one month ahead of your pregnancy, it will decrease
the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord of your baby up to 50 ~ 70%.
And thus it is recommended for all pregnant women to take in enough folic acid every
Birth defects mostly happen during the first 3 ~ 4 weeks of pregnancy, and if you
take folic acid before your conception, you will be able to avoid the risk of having any
brain defect. In case you choose your own vitamins, make sure that you bring your
prenatal vitamins with you, when it is the first time for you to go visit prenatal doctor,
to see if you have all of the recommended types of nutrition. The commercially
prenatal vitamins are all different with less or extra vitamins and minerals than your
What types of food contain the entire vitamin B-complex? These foods contain all
eight B-complex: whole grains, fortified grains, fortified breads, fortified cereals, and
meats. You should take these foods as one of the components of your daily meals to
ensure that you don’t lack of any of the vitamin B-complex.
In brief, even though vitamin B-complex is important, overdose of any vitamin is
considered dangerous. Most of the B-complex components can be obtained from
normal diets, except B6, B9 or folic acid, and B12. You should consider getting
enough vitamin B from diet with rich nutrition. If you think you need any extra
component of vitamin B complex, you need to talk to your prenatal doctor.
8.4 - Iodine
Iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormone in the thyroid organs of the
front neck, which is essential for brain development. According to the World Health
Organization (WHO), pregnant women need 66% more iodine than regular women.
The main source of iodine is iodized salt, because most foods are low in iodine
naturally. You only need to make sure that you are using iodized salt in your kitchen,
and choosing also some iodine rich foods will be good idea, because lack of iodine in
early pregnancy causes at least 6 points lower of IQ intelligent when the baby is 8
You may want to know those foods that are rich in iodine, and there are plenty of
foods that fit to the category. The number one food rich in iodine should be seaweed
and shrimp, and others are fruits like cranberries and strawberries, vegetables like
potatoes and beans, and turkey and cheese.
8.5 - Importance of Copper
Copper, as one of the important nutrients, is called the food of the brain, because
scientific researchers found that copper deficiency causes brain and neurological
problems in lamb and human babies. The story of the copper deficiency in lamb
babies was discovered in the 1930s, when newborn lambs became stumbling and
falling down and eventually died in a sheep station during a best lambing season in
About 35 years after the copper deficiency in lamb babies, researchers found that
similar copper deficiency was also observed in human babies with Menke’s disease.
These babies have a genetic defect that stops the intestines from absorption of
copper, and thus have abnormal brain development, even though the cause of copper
deficiency is different from the one of lambs.
It is unlikely that copper deficiency can happen in mothers with normal body
functions, but a recent survey in the United States of copper consumption in
populations from 6 months to 65 years old showed that only 80% of copper adequate
amount has been consumed. The survey results indicate that pregnant women in
North American continent have higher possibilities to be marginal copper deficient.
Researches show that even marginal copper deficiency can cause changes in the
brain in pregnant rats, when they were fed with diets containing inadequate copper.
The changes are inadequate developments of learning and memory functions with
lower reactions to the environmental stimulations in baby rats after birth. The data
show that marginal copper deficiency in pregnancy can cause structural and chemical
changes in developing brain, and this is not what you want to see when you are
expecting a higher IQ baby. And the best way to take in adequate copper is from food
diets but not supplements, since the copper amount needed belongs to one of the
trace elements, which means the amount needed is very small and easy to be
obtained from foods.
What foods are normally rich in copper? There are lots of foods that are naturally rich
in copper, and you simply need to pay attention to combinatorial food consumption to
fulfill the goal of taking in enough copper for your baby. Some examples are seafood
like oyster, lobster and calamari; meats like liver; nuts like cashew, walnut, peanut,
pine nut, pecan and almond; seeds like sesame, sunflower seed and pumpkin seed;
whole grains and cereals; and so on. If you include these foods as good sources of
copper, you will ensure that your baby processes the brain development normally.
8.6 - Iron
Iron, as another trace element and necessity nutrient, is needed for red blood cells to
carry and supply oxygen to other cells and tissues. You may already know that lack
of iron is one of the most common causes of anemia. Because of that, iron deficient
before conception or during early pregnancy, even the deficiency does not reach the
level of anemia yet, may cause longer term defects on brain development due to the
higher amount of oxygen needed by the brain, according to the Medical Center of the
University of Rochester.
It has been estimated that 35 ~ 58% of healthy women have some kind of iron
deficiency, and 20% of pregnant women is confirmed to have iron deficiency related
anemia, based on the data from the National Institute of Health (NIH). This should
attract the attention from you, because most of the obstetricians ignore mild iron
deficiency in pregnant women, and it is important to know if you have any lack of
iron particularly when you are seeking to have a healthy and intelligent baby.
The baby from an iron deficient mom will have slow down brain development with
slow language learning and behavioral, because cells in embryonic brain during the
first trimester are more sensitive to iron deficiency, but not in the third trimester.
Other factors like the Morning Sickness inducing vomiting may also cause lower level
of iron in moms. Often times, fewer attentions are paid to the first trimester of
pregnant women, and it can be the reasons that corrections are required to prevent
lower iron level from happening.
What you need to keep in mind is that the timing of the iron deficiency is more
important than the level of deficiency, which means that you need to pay attention to
taking in iron rich foods only during the times before conception and in the first
trimester, but unnecessarily after these two periods of time.
Iron rich foods are very popular and easier to be found. In meats, the most iron rich
ones are livers and egg yolks with 130% daily value per 3 ounces, and red meats
with 20% daily value per 3 ounces; in seafood like oyster and mussels are 150%
daily value per 3 ounces; in nuts like cashew, peanut and almond contain 34% daily
value per 3 ounces; in seeds like pumpkin seeds contain 80% daily value per 3
ounces; in vegetable of dark leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard have 20% of
daily value per 3 ounces; and chocolate and cocoa have as high as 97% of daily
value per 3 ounces.
8.7 - What are Neurotransmitters?
The brain is composed of millions of neurons that conduct mental signal transfer and
achieve daily brain activities, and each neuron looks like an octopus with multiple
nerve fibers with endings to reach and to connect to other neurons to facilitate the
communications between each other, and to perform highly complicated mental
Interestingly, the ending of each neural fiber only reach the ending of neural fiber
from the other neuron without directly contacting each other. And thus the
communications between neurons, precisely between neural endings, are relying on a
chemical called neurotransmitter. The contact parts of two neural endings have been
specialized to form a structure called synapse, to facilitate the fastest and the most
efficient transmissions of neural signal. And the functions of neurotransmitters are
like signal messengers carrying signals from one neuron to another.
When you take a close look at the figure above, you will notice that there are many
bubble-like objects inside the synapse, and they are called synaptic vesicles that
contain many tiny neurotransmitter particles. The functions of the vesicles are to
carry and to protect these transmitters, in order to transfer them through the lengthy
neural fibers safely to the central part of neurons.
There are countless types of neurotransmitters in the brain, but they can be briefly
divided into two simple types: the excitatory and the inhibitory neurotransmitters.
The excitatory neurotransmitters are those neural chemicals that have exciting or
stimulating effects on the next neuron or tissue cell; and as the opposite, the
inhibitory neurotransmitters have suppressive or inhibiting effects. Most of those
most important neurotransmitters are excitatory, because their effects will start an
action or a function in the next neuron or cell.
8.8 - Malnutrition and the Brain
The brain is like a complicated super machine, and it needs all of the different types
of nutrients to run its normal and super functions. Proteins, fats, sugars, vitamins,
minerals, whatever you can name it, are all required by the brain, since it is the most
important and the most complicated organ of the body. Either too little or too much
of any necessity nutrients will influence the structures and functions of the brain.
When an individual consume less nutrition consistently, malnutrition will occur.
Fetus’s brain is on its fastest growing stage of the whole life in the womb, especially
between week 10 ~ 18. It is important for you to eat nutritious foods to keep up with
the fast growing speed of the brain of your baby, because malnutrition in the early
stage of pregnancy can slow down the brain growth, and may result in lower
intelligence and learning capabilities. In addition, severe malnutrition may also cause
retardation and other intelligent problems.
The other type of under-nutrition is micronutrient deficiency, and it occurs when
enough food is consumed but some specific nutrient is not enough, for example,
those nutrients related to brain growth like folic acid, copper and iron, or nutrients
related to bone and tooth growths like calcium. Specific nutrient deficiency may still
cause lower IQ and lower body developments, and should be taken care of when a
healthy and intelligent baby is expected.
As mentioned above, neurotransmitters are media of the brain, and are influenced
significantly by food diet, especially those foods as basic materials of some
neurotransmitters. These foods include aspartic acid found in eggs, potatoes, peanuts
and grains; choline found in liver, eggs and soybeans; glutamine acid found in
potatoes and flour; and tryptophan found in milk, yogurt, meat, egg, and cheese. If
one or more of these basic components are defective, the brain will have problem in
producing enough neurotransmitters, and will not be about to keep up with its normal
With regarding the impact of malnutrition on different stages of pregnancy, the most
sensitive stages are the time before conception and in the first trimester after
pregnancy. If a woman has malnutrition before conception, it will have impact on the
ongoing development of the fetus’s brain and body. Since the brain development
occurs as early as day 18, the impact of early malnutrition will be greater in brain
development than any other body parts. It may also cause long term health problem
of the baby after birth.
The most critical time is the first five weeks of pregnancy, when the fetus’s brain,
heart and lungs begin their developments. Malnutrition of the mom will retard the
growths of these most important organs, and will have impact on later life of the
baby. In most of the cases, women are unaware of her pregnancy in the first five
weeks. The only thing you can do is that if you are expecting being pregnant, the
first thing of all is to eat enough nutrition to ensure that once you are pregnant, your
body offers a good nutrient background for your baby’s brain and other organs.
Research conducted in children’s brains found vital evidence about vitamin and
mineral deficiencies on brain structure and development, and the common reasons
include these factors as follows:
1. Starvation: it will cause malnutrition.
2. Poor diet: it will cause micronutrient deficiency.
3. Poor absorption of vitamins and minerals: it is caused by digestive problems.
4. Infection: it may disturb normal digestion and absorption of nutrition.
5. Alcohol consumption: it causes lower weight and anomalies of the brain.
One recent study of American children reveals that as many as one in five have
problems with learning, behaving, or emotional stemming from the effects of their
physical and emotional environment before and after birth.
● Nutrition is one of the most important factors in fetus brain
development, especially in the times of before conception and the first trimester
● You may not aware of your pregnancy status at this early stage and you
should improve your nutrition condition when you plan to have a baby.
● The brain development related nutrition includes but not limited to vitamin B-complex,
seafood, iodine, copper and iron.
● Malnutrition at the early stages of pregnancy can cause many different mental
and health problems and should be avoided.
● It is recommended that you obtain adequate nutrition by eating diets with rich
and various nutrients.
● If you think you need prenatal supplements, you need to consult your prenatal