Diet During Pregnancy and Early Years Affects Child's Intelligence and Behavior

First Posted: Sep 14, 2013 10:26 AM EDT

Researchers from NUTRIMENTHE conducted a five-year research to study the impact of diet on emotional and cognitive development of a child from before birth till age nine.

The study was led by Professor Cristina Campoy. She analyzed the impact of B-vitamins, breast milk, formula milk, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids on a child's psychological, behavioral and emotional development. The study was conducted on hundreds of European families with young children.

Consuming oily fish is good for the development of a child's brain, its rich iodine content improves the reading ability of the child and also provides omega-3 fatty acids, which are the building blocks for brain cells. These outcomes were concluded by the researchers after a long-term study on children till the age of nine.

"Short term studies seem unable to detect the real influence of nutrition in early life", explained Prof. Cristina Campoy, in a press release.

"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," she explained further. "So, early nutrition is most important."

The education level, socio-economic status and age along with the genetic background of the mother and child are other factors impacting the mental performance of children, says the study. These factors can influence how some nutrients are transferred and processed during pregnancy and breastfeeding and affect the child's mental performance.

"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," Professor Campoy said.

 "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!" she said further.

The findings of NUTRIMENTHE in this study will contribute to dietary recommendations for pregnant women and children to improve mental performance.

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