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The development of a child's brain is a complex process involving the maturation of brain structures.

A study explored the links between mothers' dietary habits during pregnancy and their children's neurodevelopment.

The study included couples in early pregnancy. Inclusion criteria included maternal age of 18 or over, spontaneous pregnancy, and planned regular obstetric follow-ups.

After excluding multiple pregnancies and unfavorable pregnancy outcomes, 1,423 families were selected. 

Dietary data were collected using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) covering 26 food types. These foods were administered during the three trimesters of pregnancy. Responses ranged from “almost never” to “every day”, with a score assigned to each response.

Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to identify distinct dietary patterns in each trimester. Three dietary patterns were defined per quarter: high in protein and micronutrients, low in iron, and with pasta as a staple food. The dietary patterns were named according to the foods contributing most to the main components.

Children's neurodevelopment was assessed using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, Third Edition, at 36 months of age. This questionnaire assessed communication, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem-solving and personal-social skills. 

The study revealed that children of mothers following a high-protein, high-micronutrient diet had better scores in gross motor skills and problem-solving. Conversely, the children of mothers following an iron-poor diet had lower neurodevelopmental scores, particularly in problem-solving and gross motor skills.

These results underline the importance of a balanced diet rich in protein and micronutrients during pregnancy for children's brain development.

This study supports the idea that following a protein- and micronutrient-rich diet pattern during pregnancy is beneficial for children's neurodevelopment. In contrast, an iron-poor diet is associated with an increased risk of developmental delay. 

Source(s) :
Ouyang J, Cai W, Wu P, Tong J, Gao G, Yan S, Tao F, Huang K. Association between Dietary Patterns during Pregnancy and Children's Neurodevelopment: A Birth Cohort Study. Nutrients. 2024 May 19;16(10):1530. doi: 10.3390/nu16101530. PMID: 38794768; PMCID: P ;

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