Indulging in a high-fat, high-sugar diet during pregnancy increases your child’s risk of developing ADHD.
Research published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry explored how a mother’s prenatal nutritional choices impact a gene closely linked to behavourial problems commonly found in children, including Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD).
Scientists from King’s College London and the University of Bristol discovered that children whose mothers had regularly eaten processed food and sweets were more likely to have the altered version of the gene linked to ADHD and other behavourial issues.
This effect on the gene had first been discovered in children whose mother’s had experienced famine in WWII.
“These results suggest that promoting a healthy prenatal diet may ultimately lower ADHD symptoms and conduct problems in children. This is encouraging given that nutritional and epigenetic risk factors can be altered,” said co-author Dr Edward Barker from King’s College London.
“We now need to examine more specific types of nutrition. For example, the types of fats such as omega 3 fatty acids, from fish, walnuts and chicken are extremely important for neural development.”
“This is a very interesting paper, which provides powerful suggestive information about a correlation between maternal diet and ADHD symptoms,” said Dr Max Davie, Mental Health Lead, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. “It demands replication, and testing the hypothesis that improving diet may improve these symptoms would be a useful next step.
“Parents of children with ADHD should not take from this work that their diet was responsible for their children’s problems,” said Prof. Eric Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, King’s College London.
“There are many causes of ADHD, and usually many small influences are at work together. It is not usually possible to argue back from the problem to any single cause. But the research adds strength to the existing public health message that pregnant women should be able to get a healthy diet.”