Guidelines recognize the role of nutrition during pregnancy in influencing lifelong health outcomes for mother and baby

For the first time ever, the newly released 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus on a lifespan approach to nutrition, with specific sections dedicated to nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and infancy and early childhood.  

The OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness provided testimony on the science of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) to the scientific committee compiling the recommendations for the updated guidelines. This science, which OHSU has been an influential international leader in since its inception, details the important role nutrition plays during pregnancy, breastfeeding and the first two years of life. This critical time period, referred to as the “first 1,000 days,” sets the stage for establishing risk for chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease later in life. 

This lifespan focus is an important step forward in combating the epidemic of chronic disease that has been growing in this country since the mid-1990s, including significant increases in rates of obesity and diabetes. The science of DOHaD shows us that we will not significantly reduce rates of chronic disease without focusing on nutrition before and during pregnancy, during breastfeeding and in young children, as this is when the seeds of chronic disease are first sown.  

The report acknowledges barriers to accessing and consuming nutritious foods during these life stages and urges all those who support pregnant and breastfeeding parents and young children to consider these barriers in their work.  

The Dietary Guidelines are designed for policymakers and nutrition and health professionals to develop, implement and evaluate nutrition and health policies and programs. They also provide important confirmation for health care providers to counsel patients on the importance of good nutrition during these key life stages. The Moore Institute strongly encourages health care providers to discuss the importance of a healthy diet with their pregnant patients as a way to impact the lifelong health of their children. The dietary guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations as a springboard for such discussions.