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Kresser and Wolf Discuss Healthy Fat for Mothers-To-Be

A Smart Baby!
A Smart Baby!
Though I'm a bit behind on my podcasts right now (after a marathon listening routine to catch up with Angelo Coppola's Latest in Paleo podcast), I listened to Robb Wolf's Paleo Solution podcast yesterday and came away from it with a couple of little meat gobbets of info that I found interesting from a Paleo mental healthtype standpoint.

Robb had the Healthy Skeptic, Chris Kresser, on as a guest, talking about Kresser's new product called the Healthy Baby Code, which is an instructional series on the best ways to take care of yourself if you want to conceive (mostly for women, though some would most certainly be applicable to men), if you're currently pregnant, and how to take care of your baby once the happy day arrives.

The two portions of the podcast that I found most interesting from a standpoint of mental development were at 22:30 and 42:42.  The first was where Chris and Robb were discussing proper macronutrient levels for a pregnant mother and Robb pointed out the benefits of ketones for fetal brain development.  Ketones, as you may recall from previous posts, are the energy substances created by the body when carb intake is low and the protein and fat intake are high, forcing the body to generate energy from body fat instead of carbs.

One of the key things to point out here is that we don't want pregnant ladies to fast in any way to increase their ketone production, that's not healthy for them nor the baby.  Instead, the healthy thing to do is to increase the intake of fat and lower carbohydrate intake (particularly fructose intake) to force the creation of ketones that can then be transferred to the baby through the placental wall and help to fuel the baby as it is developing.

Robb Wolf:
"...something that folks don' not widely understood is that ketone formation is actually critical for normal fetal brain development.  And these ketone bodies actually end up being structural elements that go into fetal brain development.  So if the individual is so insulin-resistant or so cortisol-laden from, say, if the protein intake is too high, or if generally the individual is in kind of a metabolically-deranged state, it can be very hard to produce ketone bodies. And so it's another individual stressor on the body trying to get these basic substrates that are necessary for normal brain development."

The study listed here indicates that a low-glycemic load diet (as compared to a low-fat diet) in pregnant women resulted in longer gestation period (i.e. fewer premature births) and increased head circumference (larger brain).

Now this is not to say that removing carbs entirely is a good thing in these cases.  As this study shows, a mid-range of carbohydrate intake was best for brain development as compared to no-carb or a standard amount of carbs.

The second point of interest was the discussion of fish intake by pregnant mothers.  Kresser pointed out that the fear of mercury in fish can somewhat be ignored in most fish, as the presence of selenium in fish has a tendency to offset the effects of mercury as the two elements tend to bond together and the resulting substance is not well-absorbed by humans - passing that substance through the digestive system and out in the feces.

Not all fish have high levels of selenium: Pilot Whales (not a cultural norm in the west, naturally), tarpon, marlin, swordfish, and some species of shark do not have high levels of seleniuim, and should be avoided.  But small fish such as sardines, mackerel, and anchovies have low levels of mercury to begin with (as they don't take nearly as long to grow to adult size, and therefore don't have time to take in much mercury) as well as high levels of selenium, and are perfect for pregnancy DHA intake.

Most fish, on the other hand, is very high in long chain Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA), which is very critical in the development of the fetal brain. DHA is found almost exclusively in seafood, though small amounts can be found in ruminant animal fat such as cows and sheep.  And DHA is very important in the early part of pregnancy as brain development is taking place, as well as in the first two years of infancy.  It's crucial in both neuron development and protection of the brain against oxidative damage.  Studies have shown that nutrients in fish can boost a child's IQ by up to ten points.

Kresser recommends eating 12 oz. of fish per week by pregnant women, but most American women eat 5 oz or less, and pregnant women consume less due to the mercury scare.

Kresser's Healthy Baby Code is available now, and Kresser is offering a 90 minute MP3 of QandA about the code for free!

Thoughts on this topic?  What's your experience with fat in the diet during pregnancy? 


  1. I craved tuna during my second pregnancy, and my son was recently tested with a 150 IQ. Who knows? I worried a lot because I heard about the mercury scare after the pregnancy. I also ate from the salad bar every day. So, it all turned out okay.

  2. That tuna probably helped your son a lot! Nice work.

  3. It helps to know the right nutrients for your body. This is to maintain your health.

    dentist memphis tn


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