Sylvia Escott-Stump, president-elect of the American Diabetic Association, spoke Thursday at Trinity Health's 30th annual Symposium on Perinatal Medicine and Women's Healthcare. Escott-Stump presented on the relationship between genetics and nutrition.
Escott-Stump explained that genetics can affect how well a pregnant woman absorbs folic acid a vital nutrient found in foods such as spinach, greens, orange juice and dry beans. Folic acid is important for fetal development.
"The genetics that person has can either lead to miscarriage or productive pregnancy. Ten percent of caucasians have a folic acid deficiency, and it's important to know about (before pregnancy)," Escott-Stump said.
Visitors to Trinity Health’s 30th annual Symposium on Perinatal Medicine and Women’s Healthcare look at symposium booths during a break between speakers.
Escott-Stump explained that the MTHFR test, a test that detects a genetic variation, can determine if a person lacks the pathways that help break folic acid down into a form that's useable by the body. If genetic variations that contribute to folate deficiency are detected, a physician-prescribed folate supplement can help.
"The genetic testing is probably beneficial to a woman who has a history of miscarriages. It's something that women and doctors need to think about," she said.
"I know I'm missing the pathways, so I do actually take the right forms of folic acid, an elemental folate prescribed by my doctor. My children do as well," she added.
Escott-Stump explained that folic acid deficiencies can have implications for pregnancy, causing infants to develop spina bifida or causing miscarriage, as well as long-term implications for people who develop schizophrenia, unexplained hypertension or certain cancers that may be in part related to a folate deficiency.
"Nutritional genomics is a message that is important for the dietitian to understand. What you eat and your environment can affect you for the rest of your life," Escott-Stump said.
"Women should take pregnancy very seriously, and realize the effects of nutrition and their genome. Diet is an environmental factor that we can affect," she added.
The Symposium on Perinatal Medicine and Women's Healthcare continues today at the International Inn.