I refer in my recent book Live Well Live Long to the idea of ‘ancient wisdom, modern forgetting’. One of the most dramatic illustrations of this is the fact that as the 20th century progressed, modern medicine forgot the ancient knowledge that a mother’s diet, emotional state and exercise during pregnancy will have potentially lifelong impacts on the health and wellbeing of her child. When UK Professor David Barker published his findings in the 1980s that low birth weight was associated with increased lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease, it was even called ‘the new science’. Since then, copious evidence has confirmed what Chinese doctors such as the 7th century Sun Simiao asserted – that emotional distress during the first half of pregnancy, and poor diet and lack of exercise in the second (with overlap), have clear impacts.
The latest study – carried out by Kings College London and the University of Bristol – suggests that an unhealthy pregnancy diet (high fat, sugar, processed foods and confectionary) may change a baby’s DNA affecting brain development and increasing the risk of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). However they pointed out that while diet may be a significant factor in the development of ADHD, it is not the only one.