Mother’s health, diet during pregnancy may impact child’s later neurodevelopment


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Maternal gestational diabetes can adversely affect neurodevelopment in 2-year-olds. Meanwhile, new research conducted at the University of Turku reveals that a healthy, holistic diet by mothers supports neurodevelopment in their children.

Maternal health and lifestyle during pregnancy are important regulators of child neurodevelopment. A mother-child study conducted at the University of Turku and the University Hospital of Turku, Finland, examined how a pregnant mother’s gestational diabetes, obesity, and diet affected the neurodevelopment of her 2-year-old infant.

This research project investigated the development of children’s cognitive, verbal and motor skills. Maternal obesity was determined by air displacement plethysmography, and gestational diabetes by oral glucose tolerance test. Dietary intake during pregnancy was assessed with the Dietary Quality Index and the Fish Consumption Questionnaire.

“On average, the children in our data had neurodevelopment in the normal range. It showed that they have less verbal skills than children,” says Lotta Saros, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Turku’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences.

Additionally, the study found that higher maternal body fat percentage was associated with lower cognitive, verbal, and motor skills in children.

“Our observations are unique because no previous study has examined the link between maternal body composition and neurodevelopment in children,” Saros said.

Gestational diabetes and obesity, especially high body fat, adversely affect maternal metabolism and increase inflammation in the body. In fact, these are the mechanisms by which harmful factors can affect a child’s neurodevelopment.

Maternal health and lifestyle during pregnancy shape neurodevelopment in 2-year-olds

Flowchart of this study. Data on neurodevelopmental assessments (Bayley-III and/or HINE) were available from 243 children. credit: pediatric research (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41390-022-02455-4

The study also found that the higher the quality of the mother’s diet, the better the child’s language development. Similar findings were found between maternal fish consumption and child neurodevelopment.

The results point to the same conclusion that a good diet contains unsaturated fatty acids found in fish and the like. Soft, unsaturated fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, promote neurodevelopment in children.

“A healthy, comprehensive diet during pregnancy is particularly beneficial for neurodevelopment in children whose mothers are at risk for gestational diabetes due to being overweight or obese,” said Kirsi, who heads the Early Nutrition and Health Research Group in the United States. Professor Laitinen said. University of Turku where the research was conducted.

A paper was published in a journal pediatric research.

For more information:
Lotta Saros, et al., Diet associated with maternal obesity, gestational diabetes, and neurodevelopment in 2-year-olds, pediatric research (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41390-022-02455-4

Courtesy of Turku University

Quote: Maternal Health, Diet During Pregnancy May Affect Child’s Later Neurodevelopment (19 Jan 2023) https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-01-mother-health- Retrieved 01/19/2023 from diet-pregnancy-impact.html

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