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REF NO.: 180

SUBJECT: Café Scientifique to discuss the relationship between maternal diet and child health

DATE: May 14

A free public event on Wednesday, May 16, is aimed at sharing the research findings and engaging with the public on the connection between maternal diet and heart disease, diabetes and obesity in children.
Memorial University faculty members Drs. Robert Bertolo and Sukhinder Cheema, both of the Faculty of Science, and Dr. Joan Crane, Faculty of Medicine, will be taking questions and sharing their knowledge in an interactive and informal setting.
Dr. Bertolo, Canada Research Chair in Human Nutrition, studies the balance of nutrients in early life and how it affects development.
“The intake of nutrients like folate and choline can impact the programming of metabolism. Too many or too few nutrients can permanently program DNA, so it is important for mothers and mothers-to-be to be aware of their own and their infant’s nutrient intake.”
Dr. Crane, maternal fetal medicine specialist and professor of obstetrics and gynecology, will be sharing information on appropriate weight gain during pregnancy to minimize adverse outcomes. One of her research interests is obesity and pregnancy and how this impacts the health of both mother and baby.
            “Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of obesity in pregnancy, which leads to a risk of complications for mothers and babies,” she explained. “I’m interested in engaging with the public and discussing healthy lifestyles during pregnancy.”
Dr. Crane also noted that this event will be helpful for people who are interested in becoming pregnant in the next few years.
“Half of all pregnancies are unplanned, so we recommend that if someone is planning to become pregnant within a few years, they start thinking about their lifestyle and how they can begin to prepare for when they are pregnant.”
Dr. Cheema, professor in biochemistry, will be sharing her research on how the amount of fat and the type of fatty acids consumed during pregnancy and lactation can impact on the newborn.
“Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of heart disease in Canada. Our research, using animals, has shown that maternal consumption of a high-fat diet rich in saturated fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation increased blood lipid levels of the offspring, which is a marker of a higher risk of heart disease,” she explained. “On the other hand, if females consumed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation, the blood lipid levels of the offspring were lower, which may reduce the risk of heart disease later in life.”
This event is sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Café Scientifique program. Café Scientifiques are events for the general public aimed at sparking informal discussion around new ideas and issues in science, technology and health.
The event takes place from 7-9 p.m. on May 16, at the Suncor Energy Fluvarium in Pippy Park. There is no admission charge and refreshments will be served. RSVP to Meaghan, or 709-864-4073.

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For more information or to arrange interviews with the featured experts, please contact Meaghan Whelan, communications co-ordinator (research), Memorial University, at (709) 864-4073, 687-9243 or


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