Pregnant women are often advised to avoid certain substances and chemicals that may harm the growth and development of their unborn children. A large focus is placed on consumed chemicals, such as tobacco, alcohol, some prescription medications, and illegal substances. Food guidelines are geared towards ensuring a nutritionally-balanced diet that supports the health of unborn babies.
Little advice, however, is offered to expectant women about the foods they should limit—or avoid altogether—during pregnancy. A recent study carried out by British researchers from King’s College London and the University of Bristol points to growing evidence that a poor prenatal diet may lead to symptoms of ADHD in children later on in life.
What The Study Finds
The study published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found that excessive amounts of IGF2 methylation via an inadequate nutritional environment could lead to both mental and physical development issues later on in life. Diets high in the fat and sugar found in processed foods was associated with higher IGF2 methylation—the gene involved in fetal brain development, including the areas implicated in ADHD. Higher levels of IGF2 methylation is also associated with early onset conduct problems, such as fighting and lying, which are often precursors to ADHD.
Pregnant women should take this information with a grain of salt. Researchers are adamant that, while the association of IGF2 with ADHD is something to keep in mind, the association does not absolutely prove that sugar and fat can cause conduct issues. However, this area of the brain had already been linked with ADHD and dyslexia. This new information is certainly something to consider.
What Pregnant Women Can Do
The good news is that a link between ADHD and prenatal nutrition means that women can reduce the chances of—or even prevent—ADHD in their unborn children. If high amounts of sugar and fat correlate with higher chances of ADHD, then expectant mothers can lower their intake of these foods to decrease the chances of ADHD in their children. Researchers noted that a diet of omega 3 fatty acids from fish, walnuts, and chicken have a positive effect on neural development.
A Final Word
A poor prenatal diet may negatively impact the health of unborn children, but a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and the healthy fats found in fish and nuts may be the first step in reducing ADHD and other behavioral problems in children.