Diet during pregnancy and early life affects children's behaviour and intelligence

The statement "you are what you eat" is significant for the development of optimum mental performance in children as evidence is accumulating to show that nutrition pre-birth and in early life "programmes" long term health, well being, brain development and mental performance and that certain nutrients are important to this process.

Researchers from the NUTRIMENTHE project have addressed this in a five-year study involving hundreds of European families with young children. Researchers looked at the effect of, B-vitamins, folic acid, breast milk versus formula milk, iron, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, on the cognitive, emotional and behavioural development of children from before birth to age nine.

The study has found that folic acid, which is recommended in some European countries, to be taken by women during the first three months of pregnancy, can reduce the likelihood of behavioural problems during early childhood. Eating is also very beneficial, not only for the omega-3 fatty acids they which are 'building blocks' for , but also for the which has a positive effect on reading ability in children when measured at age nine.

A long-term study was needed as explained by Professor Cristina Campoy, who led the project "Short term studies seem unable to detect the real influence of nutrition in early life", explained Prof Cristina Campoy, "NUTRIMENTHE was designed to be a long-term study, as the brain takes a long time to mature, and early deficiencies may have far-reaching effects. So, early nutrition is most important."

Many other factors can affect in children including; the parent's educational level, socio-economic status of the parents, age of the parents and, as discovered by NUTRIMENTHE, the of the mother and child. This can influence how certain nutrients are processed and transferred during pregnancy and breastfeeding and in turn, affect mental performance.

In giving advice to parents, Cristina Campoy explained, "it is important to try to have good nutrition during pregnancy and in the early life of the child and to include breastfeeding if possible, as such 'good nutrition' can have a positive effect on mental performance later in childhood." She went on to explain, "however, in the case of genetics, future studies should include research on genetic variation in mothers and children so that the optimum advice can be given. This area is relatively new and will be challenging!"

The knowledge obtained by NUTRIMENTHE will contribute to the science base for dietary recommendations for pregnant women and children for improving mental performance.

The work and results of NUTRIMENTHE will be presented and discussed at the NUTRIMENTHE International Conference taking place at the Granada Conference and Exhibition Centre on the 13th and 14th of September.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Eat fish, build up brainpower

Jan 10, 2012

Can pregnant women help boost their children's brainpower by eating fish? The findings of a study, presented in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, show how children born to women who consumed more f ...

Junk food may lead to mental health problems in children

Aug 20, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—New research suggests that mums with unhealthy diets during pregnancy are more likely to have children with behavioural problems. It has also shown that children with unhealthy diets have increased symptoms ...

Recommended for you

Birth season affects your mood in later life

Oct 19, 2014

New research shows that the season you are born has a significant impact on your risk of developing mood disorders. People born at certain times of year may have a greater chance of developing certain types of affective temperaments, ...

CMS announces two new initiatives to improve care

Oct 17, 2014

(HealthDay)—Two initiatives have been announced to help improve the quality of post-acute care in nursing homes and ensure safe delivery of quality care to home health patients, according to a report published ...

User comments