Avoiding certain foods while pregnant is common knowledge, with ladies expecting steering clear of certain cheeses, raw eggs, fish and meat. However mothers-to-be may wish to add junk food and sugary snacks to that list too, after new research found a diet high in fat and sugar while pregnant can lead to children developing attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is because the diet sources mutate a gene that controls brain development.
Researchers from Kings College London and the University of Bristol drew their conclusions after looking at children with conduct behaviour problems, (including lying and fighting). In more than 40 per cent of diagnosed cases, patients suffer with ADHD too.
The team looked at 83 children with early-onset conduct problems and 81 kids who had low levels of conduct problems. The mothers of the test groups had their nutrition assessed, with the experts determining how their nutrition affected changes to IGF2, a gene involved in fetal development and the brain development of areas implicated in ADHD.
It was found that poor pregnancy nutrition, including a diet high in fat and sugar from processed food and confectionery, was linked to higher IGF2 mutation (or methylation) in children with early onset conduct problems and those with low conduct problems. Higher IGF2 mutation is also connected to ADHD symptoms between the ages of seven and 13, but only for children who showed an early onset of conduct problems.
“Our finding that poor prenatal nutrition was associated with higher IGF2 methylation highlights the critical importance of a healthy diet during pregnancy,” said Dr Edward Barker from King’s College London.
“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.”
He adds that more specific types of nutrition now need to be examined.
Results have been published in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
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