By now, numerous studies have touted the importance of a healthy diet during pregnancy for both the mother and the baby. Now, there’s another reason to make sure you’re eating a diet that’s not high in fats and sugar—a new study has just linked a poor prenatal diet to ADHD in kids.
The study out of Bristol University and Kings College London found that expectant mothers who ate a high-fat, high-sugar diet were more likely to have kids with “conduct disorders.” This includes things such as ADHD, hyperactivity and other behavioral issues such as lying, fighting and cheating. So how exactly does Mom’s diet during pregnancy cause such behaviors to form?
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As part of the study, 83 kids with "persistent" behavioral problems from an early age and 81 kids without behavioral issues were studied. They analyzed the prenatal diets of the kids with problems and the children's DNA. Researchers discovered that the kids with behavioral difficulties came from mothers who ate more unhealthy and processed foods during pregnancy.
According to researchers, an unhealthy diet actually cause the expression of a particular gene, IGF2. This gene is responsible both for brain development and metabolism of food. And the more this gene is expressed, the more researchers "predicted higher ADHD symptoms" in kids between the ages of 7 and 13.
Basically, eating tons of junk food during pregnancy can literally impact your future child's DNA.
Dr. Edward Barker, an ADHD expert and lead researcher, says this study "highlights the critical importance of a healthy diet during pregnancy. Promoting a healthy prenatal diet may ultimately lower ADHD symptoms and conduct problems in children."
However, other experts caution using this study as a black-and-white case of how kids end up with ADHD, as the sample size was very small.
Even Barker acknowledges that the study just provides one link to ADHD, which can be impacted by multiple factors. "There are a lot of correlated risks, and nutrition is just one. It's hard to isolate the effects of one."