New research from King’s College London and the University of Bristol has found that a diet high in processed foods and confectionery, i.e. poor quality fats and sugar, during pregnancy could be linked to behavioural problems and ADHD symptoms in children.
This groundbreaking research published on 18th August 2016, in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, is the first to indicate a link between an unhealthy diet, behaviour problems and ADHD. The report goes on to say that early onset conduct problems such as lying, fighting and ADHD are the leading causes of child mental health referrals in the UK.
The research looked at how a mother’s nutrition could affect epigenetic changes of a gene called IGF2 which is involved in fetal and brain development. Epigenetics is the study of how environmental and external factors can switch genes on and off and change their expression.
Dr Edward Barker from King's College London said:
“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. 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. We already know that nutritional supplements for children can lead to lower ADHD and conduct problems, so it will be important for future research to examine the role of epigenetic changes in this process.”
"This research shows just how important a healthy diet in pregnancy really is. We’ve always known the critical role diet plays in general health and well-being, but this study highlights how it can have very real effects on developing babies and children."
Kay Ali, Head of Nutrition at Bare Biology
"Everything we eat has an effect on our mental and physical wellbeing. Sadly, mothers are often unaware of the impact their diet can have on themselves and their baby. Health workers and the government need to do more around nutrition education. I know from first hand experience that Omega 3 has huge benefits for both mother and child, and I welcome Dr Barker’s desire to study its impact in more detail.’
Melanie Lawson, founder of Bare Biology
Check out our blog on pregnancy diet for some tips on what a healthy, well-balanced diet looks like and some food and supplement tips for pregnancy.
Source: Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Disclaimer: Always seek advice from your medical practitioner before introducing any supplement into your diet. It’s important to make sure that what you take is compatible with any other medication or existing medical conditions.