Pregnancy and nutrition and learning
How to produce better, brighter babies

Most people think of education as schooling. Some: even preschooling. But the world's best-selling book in 1999, The Learning Revolution, says real learning starts even earlier than that: not only during pregnancy but before conception. And co-authors Gordon Dryden and Dr. Jeannette Vos devote an entire chapter to the period before birth: A sensible guide to producing better, brighter babies.
As part of the research for the book, Dryden traveled for months around the world with a television crew to videotape some of the world's best learning breakthroughs for six one-hour television documentaries. The result included an interview with Scottish Professor Michael Crawford not long after he had completed a ten-year research program on the impact of nutrition on infant and fetal brain growth.

The most important results of all revolve around brain cells and their growth. Every day about two million of your body's cells wear out. But the body replaces them automatically. Every 15 to 30 days your body completely replaces the outermost layers of your skin. What you see in the mirror today is not the same skin you had a month ago.

But some cells your body will never replace: the 100 billion active neurons, or nerve cells, that make up your brain's cortex: the vital uppermost part of your brain. Every one of them was present the day you were born. In your mother's womb you were growing them at an average of 250,000 cells every minute.

When pregnant women are severely undernourished, their children can be born with fewer than half the brain cells of a healthy child.

We each also have up to 900 billion glial cells to nourish the neurons. These glial cells develop myelin, the sheathing that wraps itself around the axons or pathways that transmit messages around your brain and body. Again, both of these cell groups start growing in the womb and continue during the first few years of life.

From this and other research, The Learning Revolution concludes that a mother's diet - before and during pregnancy, and while breast-feeding - is vital for producing brighter, better babies.


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