During pregnancy, women are always advised to take their diet seriously. Eating healthy ensures supplying the body and the baby with sufficient nutrients.
Prof. Ngozi Nnam, President of the Federation of African Nutrition Societies, has stated that poor nutrition during pregnancy has a disastrous effect on the brain development of babies.
According to the dietitian, a lack of sufficient and adequate nutrition during pregnancy frequently leads to poor brain development and a 13.5% fall in a child’s intelligence quotient.
The dietitian also cautioned that deficits in baby brain development during the first 1,000 days of life are irreversible.
The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are defined as the time between conception and the age of two.
According to Nnam, a professor of Community and Public Health Nutrition at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, a pregnant woman should feed well and eat an adequate diet at all times for the foetus’s optimal development.
“If the brain did not form effectively and you are using all conceivable means to teach the child, the child will not conceptualize because the brain needs specific nutrients to develop well so that there are no gaps,” the don added.
“What I mean is that, from conception up until the second birthday of a child, that is the rapid time of brain development and all the nutrients are necessary to be delivered in enough levels for the brain to utilise it to develop correctly.
“Some of these nutrients are iron, iodine, protein, magnesium, zinc, Omega 3 fatty acids, folate, and most micronutrients are needed for the brain to develop correctly.
“If the woman during pregnancy is not getting enough iron, the cells that will make up the brain cells will not form well. If the lady does not obtain enough iodine, the nerves do not grow properly, resulting in gaps.”
Low brain development, according to the dietician, is one of the causes of poor academic achievement in children.
“The brain cells will not shut up, you have gaps because what nature does is that each section of the brain is accountable for various processes and they develop differently,” Prof. Nnam continued.
“So, if it is part of the brain that is responsible for problem-solving like mathematics that is developing when the mother does not have enough iron and iodine during pregnancy, then that part of the brain will not develop well.
“Even after delivery, if you don’t provide the kid enough of these iron and iodine, then that portion of the brain will not develop well. Then there is a gap, and nature will skip the development of that area of the brain and go to another part. Maybe the nutrients are available for that other part to develop when it gets to another part.
“For example, you might encounter a child who does poorly in mathematics but excels in literature. Then you’ll be perplexed as to what’s going on.
“What is happening is that throughout the development of the brain, during the Intrauterine time and the first two years, at the point of the development of the brain that is responsible for problem-solving, the infant did not acquire enough iron or iodine. So you have gaps, and nature will simply jump that area and move on.”
According to the researcher, many moms are unaware that their nutrition during pregnancy has a significant impact on the fate of the pregnancy.
Nnam, a former president of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, there is a strong emphasis on optimal nutrition throughout pregnancy because 70% of brain development occurs during pregnancy.
“There are a lot of things that aren’t obvious. You don’t notice them when you go for prenatal checks. The doctor will check and check again before telling you that everything is fine. However, the doctor is unaware that the cells are not developing properly and that there are holes in the brain.
“What is most concerning about the situation is that it is irreversible. If that part of brain development does not receive enough nutrients to develop properly and there is a gap, the development will proceed to the next stage and that gap cannot be corrected.
“As a result, it is irreversible, resulting in a 13.5% drop in that child’s IQ. So you can see the injury, and it is irrevocable.
“No matter how educated you turn out to be as a mother and you now recognize that nutrients are essential for good growth and you start pouring it into the child, the harm has been done and you cannot reverse it again and the IQ has been dropped by 13. 5 per cent. “You can image the disadvantage the child is experiencing,” said the nutrition expert.
She emphasized the importance of nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s existence, urging pregnant women not to experiment with their diets.
The don also encouraged them to nurse exclusively.