Children’s behavior and intelligence affected by diet during pregnancy and early life.

nutritionA new study has been released which will add to the guilt factor of every pregnant mother, that you are indeed what you eat. The research reveals that maternal nutrition during pregnancy and during the early life stage is vital for the optimum brain development and mental performance in children.

In a five year study researchers from the NUTRIMENTHE project involved hundreds of European families with young children and 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 behavioral development of children from before birth to age nine.

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 behavioral problems during early childhood. Eating oily fish is also very beneficial, not only for the omega-3 fatty acids they which are ‘building blocks’ for brain cells, but also for the iodine content which has a positive effect on reading ability in children when measured at age nine.

Professor Cristina Campoy, who led the project explained the need for a long term study: “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.”

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!”


University of Granada (2013, September 13). Diet during pregnancy and early life may affect children’s behavior and intelligence

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